Missoula, Montana – Using a new authority passed into law by Congress as part of the 2018 Omnibus Bill the Missoula Ranger District recently signed a decision to treat 1,725 acres for hazardous fuel reduction in the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area. The work would utilize hand thinning, hand piling, pile burning and under-burning to accomplish the fuel reduction project objectives and would build upon work to treat fuels completed under the Pattee Blue Ecosystem Restoration Project signed in 1997.
The Pattee Canyon area is one of several populated areas on the Missoula Ranger District that lies within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). Because of the presence of homes and development these areas are priority fuel reduction locations for the Missoula Ranger District. Reducing fuels mitigates the potential for costly and high intensity wildfire and can also reduce the exposure to firefighters during future fire events.
The 2018 Omnibus Bill contained an amendment to the Healthy Forests Restoration Act titled the Wildfire Resilience categorical exclusion (CE). A CE authority requires specific design criteria but also excludes a project from the lengthy environmental analysis required under an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or Environmental Assessment (EA). Under the Wildfire Resilience authority a CE can be used to treat hazardous fuel reduction projects that are up to 3,000 acres and within the WUI.
The Pattee Canyon Recreation area is bordered by private land and residences to the east, west and south. The proposed treatment under the project would “enhance public safety by reducing the potential for uncharacteristic, severe fire behavior.”
The Pattee Canyon Maintenance Project aligns with the National Cohesive Strategy (https://www.forestsandrangelands.gov/strategy/) goal of creating resilient landscapes. At a recent public meeting, landowners learned of opportunities for grants and assistance to complete similar mitigation work on private lands which contributes to the Cohesive Strategy goal of fire adapted communities.
For additional information please contact the Missoula Ranger District at 406 329-3814.