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As the Chronicle reported on April 23, a judge is allowing the Custer Gallatin National Forest to go ahead with a "watershed project." The city, Forest Service, and reporters preferred that euphemism over the more accurate description: logging. Thinning and burning are other euphemisms for this logging project.

Supposedly the biggest threat to Bozeman's municipal water system is not all the old leaky pipes and backlogged maintenance but the possibility of a wildfire. The solution, we are told, is to log and burn the forest in the Bozeman Creek and Hyalite Creek watersheds.

Decades ago while opposing logging in Cottonwood Canyon south of Bozeman, Norm Strung asked, would the profit made from the lumber offset the money recreation would generate over the hundred years necessary for a new forest to replace the cleared timber. That is still a valid question.

Now we need to ask it regarding the planned logging south of Bozeman. The Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project would harm two watersheds. It would destroy popular hiking trails, stress wildlife, create log truck traffic, cause smokey fires during an above-average fire-danger year, and mar our environment in general.

Planned a decade ago, this project ignores recent scientific research on the relationships between logging, fires, and watersheds. Forested land holds water better than cleared land. Furthermore, a forest is a biodiverse ecosystem. More than trees are destroyed by road building, tree cutting and slash burning.

Yes, environmentalists have failed to stop the logging in the courts. But being legal does not mean that logging is right for the landscape south of Bozeman. The public can still speak up and opposed logging the popular Bozeman Creek and Hyalite Creek areas.

As for the perceived fire danger, yes, forests sometimes burn. That is a western reality. Accept it. But don't light the fire.

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Anne Millbrooke