Montana Public Radio

Kootenai National Forest

The Flathead National Forest released the final draft of its new forest plan Dec. 14, 2017.
Nicky Ouellet

The Flathead National Forest released the final draft of its new forest plan Thursday morning after four years of fine-tuning and analysis. The plan will guide land use decision making for the next 10 to 15 years.

Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber says writing a guiding document like this is a balancing act between thousands of stakeholders.

This map shows the burn severity as of August 22, 2017 for the Park Creek Fire, one of the biggest fires in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest this year.
INCIWEB

The Helena-Lewis and Clark Forest lifted all fire related closures today. Several other national forests in Montana reduced fire restrictions or closures over the last several weeks. 

A member of the Flathead Hotshots walks the fire line at the edge of a prescribed burn near Lakeside this spring
Nicky Ouellet

Fire season arrived in Montana this month. As crew leaders set up command centers and assess the flames, they’re seeing the product of previous management decisions that have shaped the forest.

July Fire file photo courtesy of InciWeb
InciWeb

Update: 6:30 p.m. 07/10/17

Tribal officials have increased the fire danger to “Extreme” on the west side of the Flathead Indian Reservation and “Very High” on the east side.

Fire managers for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes write in a press release that fine, dead fuels are drying out across the reservation. They add human behavior, such as tossing cigarette butts onto dry grass, leaving campfires unattended, lighting fireworks, burning debris and driving through dry grasses, has caused multiple grass fires across the Northern Rockies over the past week.

Beauty of the Big Sky, U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree
U.S. Forest Service

A tree from northwest Montana will grace the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington next Christmas. The U.S. Forest Service has been supplying the capitol with trees for decades. Elizabeth Slown, spokesperson for the Northern Region of the Forest Service, says this year, the Kootenai National Forest has the honor.

Weyerhaeuser closed its lumber and plywood mills in Columbia Falls last week.
Eric Whitney

A job at the lumber mills in Columbia Falls was supposed to be the kind of job you’d have forever. But forever came to an end last Friday, when the Weyerhaeuser Company sawed its last logs at its lumber and plywood mills in the industrial heart of the Flathead Valley. The mills had been open since the late 1940s.

Libby Superfund map.
US Environmental Protection Agency

August often means peak wildfire season in Northwest Montana, as thunderstorms spin off lightning strikes into forests that are dried out by a summer’s worth of heat.

And wildfires are especially concerning east of Libby, where the former W.R. Grace asbestos mine sits, surrounded by the Kootenai National Forest.

Flathead National Forest to update forest plan, seeks public input
Nicky Ouellet

The forest in the Flathead is about to see some big changes – or not. It all depends on how proposed changes to the Flathead’s National Forest Plan shake out.

Supervisors for the Flathead National Forest held an open house in Kalispell on Monday to answer questions about proposed revisions to its draft forest plan.

The plan provides long-term management goals and standards, and outlines the forest’s projected timber sales.

Kootenai National Forest sign.
Josh Burnham

Environmentalists are suing the U.S. Forest Service over the agency’s approval of the Montanore Mine near Libby. The lawsuit filed Friday says the government’s authorization for the mine in the Cabinet Mountains could drain surrounding waterways and harm a species of trout protected under federal law.

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