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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Public Comment Period Begins On Proposed Lolo Forest Replanting

Michelle and Dan Schurg walk through their Florence area neighborhood in the aftermath of the Lolo Peak Fire, September 2017.
Mike Albans
Michelle and Dan Schurg walk through their Florence area neighborhood in the aftermath of the Lolo Peak Fire, September 2017.

The Lolo National Forest’s Missoula Ranger District is now accepting public comment on a proposal to plant trees on thousands of acres that burned in last summer’s 50,000-acre Lolo Peak fire.

The proposed treatments would occur on almost 8,000 acres burned by the Lolo Peak Fire.

"It’s all along Highway 12 from Mormon Creek to Elk Meadows Road," says Forrest Parks, a forester on the Lolo National Forest.

Parks says the project’s goal is twofold.

"To reforest, obviously, stuff that burned up in the fire, but we’re planting areas that have a low probability of regenerating naturally, which tend to be the warm and dry areas. We’re not just going to plant everywhere. If it’s going to come in naturally, we’re not going to plant," he said.

Parks says native tree species will be used in the targeted burned areas; specifically, ponderosa pine and western larch.

Site preparation may include a technique called "scalping."

"Once grass and shrubs take over, they compete with trees – mostly to the root system competes for water in the immediate area – so you do a small scalp, like 12 to 16 inches to kill off the grass and give the trees a chance to absorb nutrients and water," Parks says.

The newly planted seedlings would also be protected from animal grazing.

"Deer and elk like to eat the buds in the spring before the grass greens up, so you put a net around the tree. That stops them from eating those buds and killing the tree. After usually around three years when the tree is big enough to handle the buds being eaten off the top of them, we remove it," says Parks.

The replanting project could take up to eight years to complete.

A combined scoping and public comment period runs through April 16.


There will be a combined 30-day scoping and comment period on the proposal.  Comments specific to the proposed actions and/or to individual sites and resources are valuable in helping the Forest Service identify issues and concerns.  Comments can be provided by April 16, 2018 to:  Forrest Parks, Missoula Ranger District, 24 Fort Missoula Road, Missoula, MT 59804. 

Electronic comments may be sent to: 

Office hours, for those who wish to hand deliver comments to the Missoula Ranger District are: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday (except federal holidays).  Acceptable formats for electronic comments include word perfect, rtf, or MS word.

Comments should include:  (1) your name, telephone number and organization, if any; (2) title of the project on which the comment is being submitted; (3) specific facts along with supporting reasons that you believe should be considered; and (4) your signature.  Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names and addresses of those who commented, will be considered part of the public record and may be available for public inspection. 

For additional information on the project, please contact Forrest Parks at (406) 329-3954.

O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at
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