Flood-caused trail damage in Custer Gallatin forest estimated at $3.2M

Brett French

Forest Service trail crews have been busier than usual this summer in the Custer Gallatin National Forest with assessment and cleanup work following damaging floods in June.

“Most of what we’re doing is determining damage…collecting detailed inventories to request funding,” said Annette Smits, Beartooth District recreation program manager.

Current estimates of trail and bridge damage across the forest is about $3.2 million, Smits said, the majority of it concentrated on the 600,000-acre Beartooth Ranger District, about 65% of which is in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Another roughly $2.8 million in repairs are needed for campgrounds, recreation sites and watershed stabilization.

“It’s just staggering the amount of damage that’s come with this flood,” Smits said.

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This does not count destruction to 58 roads and 21 bridges that access trailheads across the forest. In total, 130 sites were damaged by the flooding.

The Forest Service received an initial injection of $5.7 million in emergency Federal Highway Administration funding for road repairs. That’s just a portion of the total amount needed.

“We have more work than what we can do,” Smits said. “But at least now we know what most

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