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

Flathead National Forest Approves Logging, Thinning Project

The Flathead National Forest issued a draft decision Thursday for a large forest thinning project northwest of Whitefish. The project calls for a thousands of acres of commercial timber harvest and several miles of new roads.

The project area includes about 56,000 acres of the Tally Lake Ranger District. The Flathead National Forest plans to conduct prescribed fire projects, allow commercial logging on about 6,000 acres as well 3,000 acres of non-commercial thinning. The Forest Service also wants to build nearly 34 miles of permanent roads throughout the project area.

In its environmental analysis, the Forest Service said the project could have limited and temporary impacts on lynx, elk and grizzly bears. In his draft decision, Forest Supervisor Kurtis Steele said safety concerns regarding dense tree stands and fuel for potential fires near homes, as well as the economic benefits of the planned commercial logging, outweigh those wildlife impacts.

The project has now moved into a 45-day administrative review period allowing people who have previously submitted timely, specific, written comments during any designated opportunity for public comment to file an objection to the draft decision. More information about the project [link is broken as of 05/15/20] can be found on the Forest’s website.

Aaron Bolton is Montana Public Radio's Flathead Valley reporter.
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