Winter Wildlands Alliance has been working with a wide variety of recreation, conservation, and management stakeholders in Bozeman, MT to improve, and reduce impacts from, outdoor recreation in the Bridger Mountains.
The Bridgers are just north of Bozeman and provide excellent winter (and summer) recreation opportunities of all types. Our stakeholder group, called the Bridger Infrastructure Committee, includes backcountry skiers and local ski area representatives, hikers, mountain bikers, motorized users, backcountry horsemen, local conservation organizations, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, Gallatin County, the Custer-Gallatin National Forest, local residents, and more.
Together, we identified a need to improve signage across the Bridger Range to better mark the trail system and provide visitor education regarding etiquette, travel management, and wildlife conservation. We also all agreed on the need to do more to manage invasive weeds throughout the Bridgers.
With support from our Bridger Infrastructure Committee partners, Winter Wildlands Alliance applied for and received a grant from the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Trail Stewardship Program to implement the project ideas the group collectively developed. This grant represents the biggest cash infusion into our Ski Kind Stewardship Fund to date.
Bridger Mountains Sign and Weed Treatment Project
When our Bridger Mountains Sign and Weed Treatment Project is complete, every trailhead in the Bridgers will have a kiosk displaying a backcountry etiquette sign and visitor use map with travel management designations clearly marked (which will be swapped out for semi-annually for winter signs and maps at the primary backcountry ski and snowmobile trailheads), all of the trail junctions throughout the Bridger Range will be well-signed, the most heavily-used summer trailheads in the range will be equipped with boot brush weed stations, and we’ll have treated invasive weeds along several miles of multi-use trail.
We are halfway through our first year of this two-year project and excited about the progress that has been made to-date. We worked with our Bridger Infrastructure partners to design the backcountry etiquette signs – which are also translated into Spanish and will likely be the first bilingual signs on public lands in the state of Montana.
With significant help from Bridger Bowl Ski Area employees, Bridger Ski Foundation coaches, and Forest Service staff, we inventoried almost every trail in the Bridger Range over the summer, noting where new or additional directional or travel management signs are needed.
In early November we installed two of three weed boot brush stations. And we just placed an order for all of the trailhead kiosk etiquette and visitor use map signs. We also contracted with a weed spraying company to complete the first two of four rounds of weed treatments.
Over the winter we’ll be reviewing the trail inventory and placing an order for the necessary new trail junction signs and installing the winter etiquette and map signs once they’re printed. Next summer we’ll be completing the trail inventory, building additional trailhead kiosks where they’re needed, installing all of the new signs, installing the final boot brush station, and completing the weed treatments.
This ambitious project wouldn’t be possible without our partners – the Custer Gallatin National Forest’s Bozeman Ranger District, Gallatin County, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, Bridger Bowl Ski Area, Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association, Bridger Ski Foundation, Citizens for Balanced Use, Crosscut Mountain Sports Center, Gallatin Valley Backcountry Horsemen, The Wilderness Society, Bridger Canyon Property Owners Association, and the Custer Gallatin Working Group.
It truly captures the Ski Kind spirit – no matter how you enjoy the backcountry we can work together to keep it open, accessible, inclusive, and protected.