Environmental Assessment Completed for Fuel Reduction Project
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: December 9, 2016

KALISPELL, MTDecember 7, 2016 –The Tally Lake Ranger District has released the Environmental Assessment and Draft Decision Notice for the Whitefish Municipal Watershed Fuel Reduction (WMWFR) project.

The project was developed through a collaborative process, and is located on the Tally Lake Ranger District, northeast of the city of Whitefish. Much of the project area is surrounded by private and state owned lands in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).  The project will modify forest stand conditions to increase resilience to insect infestation and reduce future tree mortality. This project will also increase wildland fire resiliency and reduce hazardous fuel, to protect the Whitefish Municipal Watershed. Several types of silvicultural treatments are proposed on a total of 254 acres.  Approximately 859 acres within the project area are proposed to have fuel treatments by either prescribed burning of 756 acres or understory removal on 103 acres.  The project will create approximately 2 miles of temporary roads that will be rehabilitated after the project is completed.   A portion of road 316B on the Glacier View Ranger District would be closed to summer wheeled motorized vehicles to increase grizzly bear security.  In order to address the above needs for the project some of the Forest Plan MA 2A standards would need to be amended for the duration of this project.  The WMWFR project is expected to be implemented the summer of 2017.

The WMWFR project area is within lands designated by Governor Bullock under the 2014 Farm Bill amendment to the Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HFRA) of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6592 et. seq.). Section 602 allows this area to be designated as part of an insect and disease treatment program since this area meets the criteria of experiencing forest health decline. Section 104(d) (2) of the HFRA describes the alternative analysis process for projects within the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI). WMWFR project area is within the WUI and is located no further than 1 1/2 miles from the boundary of an at-risk community. The Forest Service is not required to study, develop, or describe any alternative to the proposed agency action.

The HFRA provides for a pre-decisional review (objection) process. The WMWFRP and project-specific forest plan amendment are subject to review and objection pursuant to 36 CFR 218 regulations (Subparts A and C). A written objection must be submitted to the reviewing officer within 30 calendar days following publication of the legal notice of the objection period in the Daily Interlake, which is the newspaper of record. It is the responsibility of objectors to ensure their objections are received in a timely manner (36 CFR 218.9(a)). The publication date in the newspaper of record is the exclusive means for calculating the time to file an objection. Objectors should not rely upon time requirements provided by any other source.

Objections will only be accepted from those who have previously submitted specific written comments regarding the project during scoping or other designated opportunity for public comment in accordance with §218.5(a). Issues raised in objections must be based on previously submitted timely, specific written comments regarding the proposed project unless based on new information arising after the designated comment opportunities.

The Environmental Assessment and Draft Decision Memo is available on-line at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/flathead/landmanagement/projects.  These documents are also available for review at the Tally Lake Ranger Station, 650 Wolfpack Way, Kalispell, MT.