Kalispell, MT — Flathead National Forest announced today that the Crystal Cedar project has moved to the next phase of its planning process with the release of the draft decision notice.
The draft decision includes the construction of approximately 25 miles of new trail adjacent to the Columbia Falls community, and over 3700 acres of vegetation treatment to reduce fuels close to neighborhoods in the wildland-urban interface, including 2,500 acres of commercial timber harvest. These vegetation treatments will also improve the diversity and resilience of forest vegetative communities and provide a mix of forest products for the local community.
The project area includes Crystal Creek, Cedar Flats, Spoon Lake, Blankenship Road, and Teakettle Mountain.
“Community interest in this project has been high,” said Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber. “Partner organizations have played an important role particularly as we’ve considered multiple ideas about trail construction and maintenance. I applaud District Ranger Davies and his team for working so collaboratively with the public. The best projects we do result from working this way during both planning and implementation.”
Gateway to Glacier, a local nonprofit, has offered to partner with the forest in trail network construction and ongoing upkeep.
The forest received hundreds of comments over the last two years about the project via letter and during community conversations. The environmental assessment was released to the public in June 2019 and received 150 written comments. In general, comments both supportive and concerned focused on additional trail opportunities near Columbia Falls, potential effects to wildlife, and perceived changing and increased recreational use in the area, among other aspects of the project.
This week, the project enters an objection period, which is required by U.S. Forest Service regulation. The 45-day administrative review period allows people who have previously submitted timely, specific written comments during any designated opportunity for public comment to file an objection to the draft decision.
More information about the project can be found on the forest’s website.