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

Hungry Lion Logging Project Moves Forward

Hungry Lion planning area and general vicinity.
U.S. Forest Service
Hungry Lion planning area and general vicinity.

The Flathead National Forest said Thursday it will move ahead with a commercial logging and hazardous fuels reduction projectjust north of Hungry Horse Reservoir.

The Hungry Lion Project calls for logging about 2,600 acres, half of which is in the wildland-urban interface. The Service says it will reduce risk to wildland firefighters and residents there.

It also includes removing hazardous fuels on almost 200 acres next to private property outside of the commercial timber harvest. Thinning 600 acres of western white pine stands and prescribed burning of about 750 acres is slated for higher elevations.

But Keith Hammer with the Swan View Coalition says the hazardous fuels reduction isn’t close enough to houses to be meaningful, and that logging won’t mitigate wildfires. He says it will harm fish and wildlife habitat.

He’s also concerned that the Service is adding 12 miles of former “social trails” at Lion Hill and Desert Mountain.

"This basically is rewarding unlawful mountain bike behavior by saying, 'We're going to make these formal trails, and thanks a lot for going out and breaking the law and building them,'" says Hammer.

Flathead Area Mountain Bikers calls the decision a “big step in the right direction for trail access in the canyon area” and says it will help fund future trail maintenance.

The Swan View Coalition was one of six groups to object to the project earlier this summer. The Flathead National Forest says in response it reviewed new publications about lynx habitat and provided clarification on some of the trail work it plans to do. Hammer says his group hasn’t decided yet whether it will pursue litigation.

The Service also plans to build a fishing pier near South Lion Lake day use area, install six fish passage structures and replace 12 culverts, and improve parking at the North Lion Lake Trailhead. It will construct a little less than four miles of temporary road.

The Service will begin advertising the commercial timber sale later this month.

Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.
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