Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Tester urges USFS to set aside more money for flood recovery in Custer Gallatin

by Alex Miller

A member of Montana’s congressional delegation is pushing for more flood disaster relief funding for the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

Hundreds of millions have been spent and set aside in the hopes of reconciling and repairing the damage wrought by the Yellowstone River’s historic flooding eight months ago. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester is pushing for more money to aid still-damaged areas in the national forest.

Tester sent a letter late last week urging U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore to direct relief funding to the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

The money would come from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, which already set aside nearly $1 billion in disaster relief funding for Yellowstone National Park.

The federal spending bill also included $360 million for the U.S. Forest Service to use for natural disaster response. That money is split into two pots — one of $210 million for watershed restoration, critical habitat and public access and another of $150 million for capital improvement projects, like repairing roads and bridges.

Tester said in the letter that it was clear there are unmet needs in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. Smart, timely investments would protect resources and replace damaged roads, Tester said.

Republican Sen. Steve Daines said in a statement to the Chronicle that he would work with the U.S. Forest Service to “ensure Montana receives aid in an efficient manner.”

A spokesperson for the national forest said in an email that there is “nearly $40 million in identified need” across the Custer Gallatin to repair roads, bridges, trails and watersheds. The agency did comment on specific repairs needed.

The Beartooth, Yellowstone and Gardiner ranger districts were the most affected by the June floods.

For example, the main fork of Rock Creek and the East Rosebud drainage — both in the Beartooth Ranger District, were heavily impacted by the spring floods.

Custer Gallatin officials previously requested and received $5.7 million in aid from the Federal Highways, Emergency Response for Federally Owned Roads program last summer. That money was specific to five major drainage areas, including the East Rosebud Drainage and the main fork of Rock Creek.

Though the national forest has sought internal disaster relief money and outside money, there has not been an update of more funding coming to the Custer Gallatin, the spokesperson said.

The $360 million from the federal spending package is not earmarked, meaning it is not specifically for the Custer-Gallatin National Forest, according to Tester’s office. There is also no specific time that the U.S. Forest Service has to disburse the funding.

Tester urges USFS to set aside more money for flood recovery in Custer Gallatin | Environment |