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Flathead National Forest Plan, Approved During Shutdown, Draws Mixed Reviews

Courtesy Flathead National Forest

Revisions to the plan that dictates land, recreation and wildlife management on the 2.4 million acre Flathead National Forest have now gone into effect. Interest groups are split on what the plan means for the forest’s future.

The 2018 Flathead National Forest Plan was signed on December 27 during the partial federal government shutdown. It went into effect last Saturday following a mandatory 30-day waiting period.

While groups like the Montana Wilderness Association and timber giant F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Company praise the new plan for its collaborative nature, others say it rolls back existing protections and its unorthodox release during the shutdown precluded opportunities for public scrutiny.

Arlene Montgomery is the program director of Friends of the Wild Swan.

"They should have allowed the public that additional 30 days to review the plan, since we lost that because of the shutdown," Montgomery said. "I realize that the shutdown was not the fault of the Flathead, but during that time there was no access to any of these documents."

Montgomery says she would have used those 30 days to review the plan and identify final changes prior to its implementation. She says she received a copy this past Wednesday. Friends of the Wild Swan previously objected to the plan. Montgomery says the group is considering its options for what to do next.

The Flathead National Forest is moving forward with one project that adheres to the guidelines of the new forest plan. The Mid-Swan Landscape Restoration and Wildland Urban Interface Project covers roughly 70,000 acres and calls for prescribed burns, stream sediment reduction projects and timber harvests to promote a resilient landscape.

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