West Yellowstone, MT, August 7, 2023— The Custer Gallatin National Forest, Hebgen Lake Ranger District today released the Final Decision for the South Plateau Landscape Area Treatment Project. The 39,909-acre project area, located south and west of West Yellowstone, Montana consists of forest resilience treatments designed to increase landscape resiliency to insects and disease, treat hazardous fuels near West Yellowstone, Montana, and contribute to a sustained yield of timber products. There are multiple projects planned within the project area and implementation activities could begin spring 2024.
The project also includes access changes on Forest System Roads designed to improve water quality and riparian zone integrity and improve the condition of grizzly bear secure habitat in deficient Bear Management Subunits. “The reason for this project is to help protect the town of West Yellowstone from wildland fire and to improve the diversity of habitat conditions,” said Nick Mustoe, Hebgen Lake Acting District Ranger. “To accomplish this, we will be using regeneration harvests, forest thinning, and fuels treatments.”
The Draft Decision was released in March 2023 and kicked off a 45-day objection period. During that time, the Forest heard concerns about climate change, effects unauthorized road use may have on wildlife, overlap in effects of this project given proximity to the Rendezvous Nordic Ski Area Improvement Project, and impacts of decommissioning portions of roads to improve conditions for aquatic resources.
In response to concerns about climate change, the Forest improved the analysis and reached the conclusion that, under climate projections for the 15-year project implementation timeframe, forests are expected to regenerate. The Forest found that the impact to wildlife from unauthorized road use would be minimal, if any, based on data gathered on unauthorized road use as part of monitoring for the new Forest Plan (only about 3% of closed roads showed evidence of unauthorized use). Additional analysis of effects resulting from implementation of both the Rendezvous and SPLAT projects found it unlikely that there would be any impact. The Forest is also moving forward with decommissioning portions of Forest Roads including Road #478 to help improve water quality and grizzly bear secure habitat conditions. Access will be maintained by re-routing traffic to a roughly parallel road that does not impact aquatic resources.
Learn more about the project by visiting the Custer Gallatin National Forest online or by calling the Hebgen Lake Ranger District at (406) 823-6961. Visit us on Facebook to learn more about the Decision as well.