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Forest service moving forward with proposed timber project near West Yellowstone

A map showing the scope of the proposed timber project near West Yellowstone

A conservation group is worried that a proposed timber project near Yellowstone’s West Entrance will harm grizzly bears. In documents released earlier this month forest officials found no significant impact for the South Plateau Landscape Area Treatment Project.

The proposed project, located west and south of the town of West Yellowstone, would involve timber harvest, fuels reduction and other activities in some parts of the Custer Gallatin National Forest. The project area spans around 40,000 acres taking place over the next 15 years.

The forest service says it's necessary for wildfire mitigation and to increase trees' resilience to pests, among other factors.

Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, says the more than 50 miles of new logging roads that could come with the project would be in prime grizzly bear habitat.

“If they put a bunch of roads and clearcuts in the middle of this corridor, grizzly bears are not going to be reconnecting with other populations through this corridor,” he said.

A final environmental assessment says there could be temporary reductions to grizzly bear security related to roads, but that officials are taking some measures to mitigate the impacts.

Members of the public who have already commented on the project are invited to submit more feedback by May 1. The forest service will make a final decision after that. Implementation could begin this fall.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.