March 17, 2020
Forest Finishes Planning for Crystal Cedar Project Near Columbia Falls
Project includes new community trails, fuels reduction, and commercial timber
Kalispell, MT —Today, Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele approved a recreation, timber, and fuels reduction project near Columbia Falls, MT.
The project will construct approximately 25 miles of new trail next to the Columbia Falls community, and reduce fuel loads including closely spaced trees, shrubs, and other vegetation across 3,700 forested acres near neighborhoods. The treatments include 2,500 acres of commercial timber harvest. The work is designed to increase forest survival and regeneration in the face of naturally occurring wildfire and disease and offer a mix of forest products for the local economy.
The project area includes Crystal Creek, Cedar Flats, Spoon Lake, Blankenship Road, and Teakettle Mountain.
“The Forest is committed to working along boundaries with private and other public lands to do this essential forest management work to increase our forest’s health and diversity as well as improve conditions when wildfire occurs,” said Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele. “I am pleased to work collaboratively with so many members of the community to realize a project with both recreation and economic value, while providing additional protection from wildfire threats.”
Gateway to Glacier, a local nonprofit, will partner with Flathead National Forest in trail network construction and ongoing upkeep.
Reducing forest fuels next to neighboring communities increases chances of success with fire suppression efforts, while improving firefighter and public safety. Private landowners are encouraged to complement these efforts by undertaking work on their own property within the Home Ignition Zone, defined as the area 0 to 100-feet out from a home. People can learn more about local resources, including grant programs for fuels reduction atwww.firesafeflathead.com.
The general public has been very interested in the project, submitting hundreds of comments via letter and public conversation. Flathead National Forest released the environmental assessment for public comment in June of 2019. The objection period ended in December of 2019. In general, the public expressed support and concern about several project components including additional trail opportunities near Columbia Falls, potential effects to wildlife, and perceived changing and increased recreational use in the area.
Timber harvest and fuels management work is expected to begin as early as this fall. Limited trail layout and construction may begin this summer.
More information about the project can be found on Flathead National Forest’swebsite.
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