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Lolo National Forest managers lay out suggested changes to the forest management plan

Big Larch Campground on the Lolo National Forest.
Lolo National Forest

Lolo National Forest officials said they’ve hit a new milestone in the process of revising the forest’s decades-old land management plan.

The Lolo National Forest land management plan guides officials through all decisions that may impact the forest, from recreation and industry to ecology and cultural heritage.

Revising the plan is a huge undertaking. The public process kicked off late last year and forest managers recently laid out areas in which they believe the nearly 40-year-old plan should change and ways it should stay the same.

Amanda Milburn leads plan revisions for Region 1 of the U.S. Forest Service. She said managers aren’t starting from scratch and that there are elements of the 1986 plan that still hold up.

“We don’t necessarily need to throw the baby out with the bathwater if there are things that are working with the 1986 plan,” Milburn said.

The “need-to-change” document indicates the current plan does a good job providing an array of tools for managers to balance multiple uses of the Lolo National Forest. It also says the plan outlines a good framework for building and decommissioning roads within the forest.

But Milburn said federal rule changes and newer science show that the plan needs updates in several key areas. Those include climate change mitigation, ecosystem sustainability and modernizing protections for tribal heritage sites and culture.

Managers are now set to begin developing the new plan. The entire process will take years, with multiple drafts and several formal public comment periods still to come.

Milburn said the Lolo National Forest won’t have its new land management plan locked in place until 2026 or 2027.

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

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