The Flathead National Forest released its environmental assessment Tuesday for the Stovepipe Project northwest of Kalispell. The project aims to reduce the risk of intense fires in the wildland-urban interface and is expected to reduce some grizzly bear habitat.
The project would include 7,200 acres of commercial and non-commercial thinning in a stretch of national forest intermingled with private property and homes.
Flathead National Forest Silviculturist Andy Reed said dense tree stands in these areas known as the "wildland-urban interface" increase the risk of devastating wildfires.
"In this case, what you have is forest on the east side, and on the north side is homes or values," he explained. "So if we can break up that continuity in that area, hopefully we’ll be able to deal with wildfire on our terms."
Most of the thinning in the project area would come from the roughly 5,000 acres of commercial logging included in the proposed alternative. The project would also construct 15 miles of permanent roads. The U.S. Forest Service’s analysis says that would reduce grizzly bear habitat 500 or more meters away from roads by nearly 1,200 acres.
The publication of the environmental analysis has opened a 30-day public comment period.