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Forest plans project along reservoir

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | September 13, 2023 2:00 AM

The Flathead National Forest has released plans for a timber project near the Hungry Horse Reservoir.

The Dry Riverside Project on the east side of the Hungry Horse Reservoir includes commercial timber harvest on 4,205 acres, and noncommercial vegetation treatments on 3,696 acres including thinning, burning, and whitebark pine planting.

The project also calls for almost 23 miles of new roads or reopening old roads and about 5.2 miles of temporary roads. Best Management Practices would be used on the roads and they would be made impassable to wheeled motorized use after the project is complete.

The cutting units are on a host of different tracts up and down the reservoir. In the early 1900s 32 percent of the project area burned in wildfire. There have been two more recent fires in the 
upper elevations of the project area; the Logan Burn in 1998 (1,724 acres) and the Felix Fire in 2007 (875 acres). Since 1950 approximately 27% of the project area has had either regeneration or intermediate harvest.

“The regeneration harvest has led to 22% of the project area dominated by 50-year-old western larch. These stands are ready for thinning to sustain and increase their growth,” the environmental assessment notes.

The portions of the project area that have not experienced disturbance since the early 1900s are mature, mixed species stands with understories of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir. These stands are dense and slow growing with large, western white pine and western larch remnant trees throughout.

The idea of the project is to enhance the presence of western larch, western white pine, whitebark pine, and quaking aspen, The Flathead Forest said.

The project also gives a nod to old growth forests in the area.

“No old growth or late successional forest would be harvested, nor would stands adjacent to old growth,” the EA states.

The plan also calls for 718 acres of whitebark pine restoration in higher elevations and 39 acres of “vista” clearing near the reservoir.

There is no estimate on total board feet from the project.

In addition to the logging and thinning, some culverts would be upgraded or removed to improve aquatic ecosystems. Culverts would be installed to allow fish passage, and to prevent high water levels from washing out roads and delivering road sediment into streams.

Project information, including maps and instructions for how to provide comment on the project, is available on Flathead National Forest’s https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/flathead/?project=63176 under the “analysis” tab.

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