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Forest Service plans logging projects near West Glacier

Daily Inter Lake | December 2, 2020 12:00 AM

The Flathead National Forest is seeking public input on a new forest management project that’s been proposed between Coram and West Glacier.

Known as the Lake Five Project, the proposal calls for timber harvest and forest fuels reduction in the Hungry Horse Ranger District. According to the action proposal, nearly 2,000 acres are proposed for commercial timber harvest, including commercial thinning and seed tree treatments, and 300 acres are proposed for noncommercial vegetation treatments.

Seed tree treatments leave just a few trees per acre.

Some of the area was previously thinned about 15 years or so ago, under the Healthy Forest Initiative.

Other areas have been thinned more recently.

The entire project area is approximately 12,000 acres. About 56% of the project area is National Forest System land, 42% is privately owned and 2% is owned by the state. All proposed activities would occur on National Forest System land.

The proposed project is also located within the wildland-urban interface, which was established by the 2011 Flathead County Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The document identifies neighborhoods within the project area as priority areas for local fire departments.

According to the action proposal, forest vegetation in the Lake Five project area was “heavily influenced” by the Half Moon Fire of 1929. The resulting tree stands are composed of closely spaced small diameter lodgepole pine that are vulnerable to stand replacement fires and insect and disease.

The proposal states the proposed vegetation treatments, including those in riparian management zones, are designed to lower the percentage of lodgepole pine and break up its continuity across the landscape. The treatments would also promote tree growth in mixed species stands, which would increase the percentage of large, more fire-tolerant trees over time.

Some timber harvest and other fuels reduction treatments would rely on roads currently used for both summer and winter recreation. The Forest expects temporary closures in those areas, depending on where project activity is occurring.

Accessing the project area would require that the Forest Service build approximately 6 miles of road that would be added to the road system, and 1.3 miles of temporary road that would be returned to a forested condition after the project is completed. Many of the roads would be built on existing roadbeds and public motorized access would not change on any roadway.

“I encourage you to read the scoping materials, look at the maps available, and attend our virtual open house,” said Hungry Horse District Ranger Rob Davies. “The Forest Service is a neighbor to many residents in this area and we sincerely want to improve fuel conditions near homes and property, protect natural resources, and maintain recreation opportunities. We are seeking your ideas and suggestions during this scoping period to help us refine or improve this proposal.”

An environmental assessment, which will also be made available for public review, is expected to be conducted sometime this winter. A final decision on the project, which will be made by Davies, is expected by winter 2021.

A virtual public meeting on the project will be held on Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. Details on how to join that meeting can be found on the project website at www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=58984

The public can submit comments on the project until Dec. 23. Electronic input may be submitted to comments-northern-flathead-hungry-horse-glacier-view@usda.gov with “Lake Five Project” in the subject line. Written comments can be submitted to Rob Davies at Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger Station; PO Box 190340 Hungry Horse, MT 59919.