Forest management project near Crane Mountain moves forward
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: November 18, 2020

November 13, 2020 Kalispell, MT – The Flathead National Forest announced today that the Bug Creek forest management project has moved to the next phase of its planning process with the release of the draft environmental assessment.

The draft assessment proposes a range of project alternatives that provide for recreation, timber management, and fuels reduction.

Approximately 17 additional new or newly designated non-motorized trail miles south of Bigfork, MT would be added to provide more recreation options due to increasing use. The Forest would also change the trail designation for Estes Lake Trail to allow nonmotorized use only to align with that trail’s use beyond Forest Service system lands. In its place, one alternative (B) would create a motorized loop opportunity between Crane Mountain Road and Road #9714 to the south end of Swan Lake.

The Forest would implement between approximately 4,000 and 4,600 acres of commercial and non-commercial vegetation treatments. The timber harvest and other vegetation removal would reduce fuels close to communities in the wildland-urban interface, provide wood products for the local economy, and address insect and disease and other forest health concerns.

The whole project area analyzed for timber harvest and other vegetation treatments is approximately 31,000 acres.

The alternatives propose a range of road construction to support project access. In general, between 11 and 13 miles of road would be built and then returned to an impassable state after the project was completed. Some of that road would be rebuilt on existing roadbeds. The Forest would also construct approximately five miles of temporary road that would be rehabilitated and returned to a forest condition after the project concluded.

Due to the location of some of the needed forest management work in the wildland urban interface and the associated temporary proposed roads supporting that work, the Forest would temporarily close the last four miles of Crane Mountain Road (Forest Service Road #498) to motorized vehicle access during project implementation, anticipated to last for five years. This is a mitigation measure to allow for long-term needed fuels management while offsetting potential short-term effects to grizzly bears. Non-motorized vehicle access along Crane Mountain Road would continue during the project time-period.

“I am incredibly pleased to see this project move forward,” said Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele. “This area is a high priority for fuels reductions to make our communities more resilient to wildfire.”

The public provided early input on the project during a scoping period in 2018. The planning team took that feedback and incorporated more options into the alternatives including a broader range of recreation opportunities, invasive species treatments, and timber harvest proposals.

Today, the project enters a 30-day comment period. Concurrent with the 30-day comment period, the Forest has also opened a 60-day public review on regeneration harvest openings that would exceed maximum size limits established by the Flathead National Forest Land Management Plan. The proposed openings are primarily within the wildland urban interface (WUI) and are needed to reduce fuels within the WUI, to create conditions that are resilient to disturbances, and to treat insect and disease issues. In addition to public review, exceeding the established size limits also requires the USFS Region One Regional Forester’s review and approval.

More information about the project, including the draft environmental assessment and further instructions about how to comment can be found on the Forest’s website. Comments should be submitted to: comments-northern-flathead-swan-lake@usda.gov