SEELEY LAKE, Mont. – The Lolo National Forest is asking for public feedback on a proposal to harvest trees impacted by insect infestation and disease within the 2017 Liberty Fire burned area on the Seeley Lake Ranger District in Missoula County. This effort has been collaboratively developed with the Southwest Crown Collaborative and the Blackfoot Challenge.
The Liberty Fire was ignited by lightning on July 15, 2017 and burned through the summer and into early fall, impacting approximately 28,694 acres over multiple jurisdictions, 9,452 acres of which are National Forest Lands. Many affected areas were burned by moderate to severe surface or crown fire that consumed all or most of the organic material on the forest floor leaving root systems and trees weakened.
“With this project, we are trying to reduce the risk and extent of potential infestations in the Liberty Fire burned area,” said Quinn Carver, Seeley Lake District Ranger. “By harvesting fire weakened trees, we can clean up the Forest, make way for a new, healthy tree stock and at the same time, recover the economic value of forest products to contribute to the local economy.”
About 61 percent of the Liberty fire burned area is allocated as suitable for timber production in the Lolo National Forest Plan. The project will use authority outlined in the Insect Infestation and Disease Categorical Exclusion by the 2014 Farm Bill and expanded in the 2018 Omnibus Bill (Section 603 of HFRA (16 U.S.C. 7303 (b)). This section gives the Forest Service the authority to harvest trees subject to insect or disease infestation on up to 3,000 acres.
The proposed action includes harvesting dead, dying, insect infested, and diseased timber on approximately 484 acres. Other than one unit of approximately 90 acres, this harvest would be done using ground-based logging systems and the remaining unit would be harvested by skyline. Un-merchantable dead trees (rotten, checked, small diameter) and potentially larger trees would be left to provide for wildlife habitat and soil productivity. No roads would be constructed for this project.
How to Comment:
Submit comments by Sept. 30, 2019 to:
John Slown, Acting Forest Planner, 24 Fort Missoula Road, Missoula, MT 59804; Facsimile: 406-329-1049 or, electronic comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Office hours, for those who wish to hand-deliver comments to either the Seeley Lake or Missoula Ranger Districts, are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday (except Federal holidays). For more information, please contact Quinn Carver, Seeley Lake District Ranger, at (406) 677-3905 or visit the Lolo National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/lolo. The maps posted there can be enlarged to see greater detail.