mountain vista at Custer Galatin National Forest



Custer Gallatin National Forest

The eastern portion of the Custer Gallatin National Forest is experiencing reforestation needs that exceed the available appropriated reforestation budget capacity due to intense wildfires across the forest.  Historical fire regimes tended to create relatively open-grown tree stands with frequent understory burning. Due to high fuel loadings from past fire suppression, and a changing climate to warmer and drier conditions, wildfire is occurring with uncharacteristic severity (stand-replacing) over very large acreages.

Our proposed 2023 post-fire restoration project will hand-plant about 290,000 seedlings across approximately 650 acres.

Much of the area within the planting proposal burned in the 2012 Ash Creek Complex, which burned 142,000 of National Forest land with significant tree mortality. Most of the planting areas in the northern portion of the district have burned again since. Near Sartin Draw, 366 acres were planted with ponderosa pine in 2019 and 2020. Then they burned in the fall of 2020 in the Wiltse Fire, and many seedlings didn’t survive the fire. Planting in 2023 would be optimal to take advantage of temporarily diminished grass and brush competition, the flush of nutrients post-fire, and the better likelihood of survival now that surface fuels have been further reduced.

Ashland Ranger District: As a result of large wildfires since 2000, more than 60% of the district’s 438,075 acres have been affected by wildfires. Return of forest cover has been slow and many areas within recent fires have not regenerated. The major benefit of these planting projects (fire restoration) is to speed up the recovery of the forested habitat that would otherwise take many decades–if it regenerated to ponderosa pine at all. This is especially important for carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, and future forest regeneration.

Community Benefits

Covering more than 3 million acres in Montana and South Dakota, Custer Gallatin National Forest is one of the most ecologically, socially, economically, and culturally diverse national forests in the northern U.S. For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples lived on and travelled through these lands, including forebears of the Crow, Northern Cheyenne, Sioux, Eastern Shoshone, Northern Arapahoe, Shoshone-Bannock, Nez Perce, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Salish, and Kootenai tribes. The forest’s modern boundaries encompass a large portion of the northern extent of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem—one of the largest nearly intact temperate-zone ecosystems on Earth.

Tree Species

Ponderosa Pine 100%


Planting program information with usage permission provided by One Tree Planted


P.O. Box 1548
Pittsboro, NC 27312