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Users of the Sourdough Trailhead urged to weigh in on trail closure options

Project aims to reduce fire fuel loads while protecting Bozeman's drinking water supply
Posted at 4:29 PM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 21:47:48-04

BOZEMAN — The city of Bozeman and the Custer Gallatin National Forest have teamed up for the Bozeman Municipal Watershed Fuels Reduction Project, which aims to reduce fire fuel loads while protecting Bozeman's drinking water supply.

The project will impact one of the Bozeman area’s favorite trailheads - the Sourdough Trailhead area and access will be limited for a small part of the summer. And the question as to how much access will be limited and for how long is up to residents.

Later this summer crews will be working on reducing fuels in the Custer Gallatin National Forest south of Bozeman.

Both the city of Bozeman and Custer Gallatin National Forest are working in partnership for a portion of the project that’s taking place on 380 acres of city-owned land.

The city says it’s all about protecting Bozeman’s primary drinking water source.

“There have been a few misconceptions that we’re trying to prevent wildfire, we’re not," said Mitch Reister, public works director, city of Bozeman. "Fire in the forest is actually a natural process. Now we get to a point that if a fire starts it's going to be hugely impactful, kill the forest, and actually cause a lot of damage to the watershed.”

The project is broken down into three phases.

During phase two, helicopters will be removing timber from the forest, which means Sourdough Canyon Trail will have limited access due to safety concerns.

So the city of Bozeman is asking for residents to weigh in.

“The first one is a four-week option for a closure which just after 5 pm Monday-Friday and then the weekends would be open," said Reister. "The second one is Monday-Thursday and then three days on the weekend - that’s 5 weeks. And then the last one is a three-week closure with no access at all for three weeks.”

As inconvenient as it may be for fans of the trailhead, the city of Bozeman says it’s a necessary project for protecting the city’s drinking water.

“If we get mudslides, landslides, and a lot of sediment, it will clog our pipes going to the water treatment plant," said Reister. "So if we have that type of situation happen there, we only have about two to three days of city water that we can provide.”

Residents have until April 5th to fill out the survey.