Sourdough Trail, Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project

Two people talk at the Sourdough Trail trailhead on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021.

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Bozeman plans to limit public access around the Sourdough Creek Trailhead this summer during a critical phase of a forest thinning project, and officials want public input about closures.

A survey to determine access around a trailhead south of town was launched Thursday at a virtual meeting about the Sourdough Fuels Reduction Project. The timber work planned on around 380 acres of city-owned land along the Sourdough Creek drainage south of Bozeman.

During a six- to eight-week part of the project, helicopters carrying timber will fly over the trail, according to Brian Heaston, a city engineer and the project manager. To protect the public, city officials plan to close the trailhead for three to five weeks in the fall.

Survey participants may choose online whether they’d like partial public access to the trailhead for four weeks, limited access for five weeks or no access for three weeks during the project’s critical phase.

Partial access would permit use of the area on Saturdays and Sundays, but restrict access before 5 p.m. on weekdays. Limited access would permit use of the area on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but grant no access Mondays through Thursdays. Access to the area would be completely restricted under a “no access” option.

The survey is scheduled to close on April 5.

City officials want to reduce fuels to protect Bozeman’s water supply, firefighters and structures in the wildland urban interface. They worry a large wildfire in the Gallatins could contaminate Bozeman’s drinking water. Around 80% of the city’s water comes from the Bozeman and Hyalite Creek drainages.

Work on the Sourdough fuels project is planned in conjunction with a Forest Service-led fuels reduction project in the Gallatins. The approximately 4,700 acre Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project calls for logging, thinning and prescribed burning between Hyalite and Bozeman creeks.

Corey Lewellen, Bozeman district ranger for the Custer Gallatin National Forest, said he anticipates thinning for the municipal watershed project will start in late spring or early summer.

Logging will likely begin in late summer or early fall.

Prescribed burning along the Hyalite Creek drainage will occur once weather conditions are optimal, Lewellen said.

Mitch Reister, Bozeman’s public works director, said on Thursday that the city and Forest Service will coordinate frequently while carrying out their respective projects. He encouraged locals to visit their joint project website to stay up to date on progress.

People should expect to see log trucks, commercial equipment, helicopters and crews with chainsaws as the work goes on, Heaston said. The city’s fuels project will be completed in three phases, he said.

The first calls for ground-based treatments and in scheduled to begin this summer. The second phase, involving helicopter treatments, is planned the fall. Hand crews plan to complete the project’s third phase in the summer or fall of 2022.

On April 8, the city plans to host another meeting to explain the results of the access survey and detail next steps.

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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