(MALTA, Mont.) – Two Bureau of Land Management campgrounds in Phillips County, Montana, reopened to the public following a temporary closure caused by the Pine Grove Fire, BLM’s Malta Field Manager Tom Darrington announced, today.
During mid- to late-August 2021 a portion of the Little Rocky Mountains burned in the Pine Grove Fire. The fire burned approximately 16,000 acres (5,000 acres BLM/11,000 Fort Belknap Indian Reservation). Additional information about the fire is available on InciWeb https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7812/.
Visitor facilities at Camp Creek Campground, near Zortman, and Montana Gulch Campground, near Landusky, escaped fire damage, thanks to the efforts of emergency management fire-response teams with the Fort Belknap Agency and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s County Assist Team, Darrington noted.
A recent on-site assessment led managers to decide that BLM-administered lands and trail routes burned by the Pine Grove Fire should remain temporarily closed because of significant risk to public safety. The temporary closure will be in effect through April 15, 2022. Managers may decide to reopen the area earlier, if springtime assessments indicate the post-fire hazards have been adequately mitigated. The closure applies to all forms of motorized and non-motorized travel, including foot traffic. Maps of the temporarily restricted-access area will be posted on nearby campground information kiosks and along access roads leading to the area.
“The fire consumed ground cover, destabilizing the soil, and a significant amount of standing timber was burned, weakening the tree roots and limbs,” said BLM-North Central Montana District Soil Scientist Josh Sorlie. “We expect many of these hazard trees will fall as winter and early-spring seasonal weather systems blow through the area, posing a serious safety risk to visitors.”
The area is a popular ATV/UTV destination, making this closure necessary to allow tree hazards along the trails to topple over, while providing for safety and prevention of injuries, said Darrington.
“We know this is a place where many people enjoy outdoor recreation activities, hunt and gather wood. We’re hoping the weather cooperates over the next couple of seasons, enabling us to reopen the area earlier than initially anticipated,” said Darrington. “Once the area is safe to reopen, we’ll be looking for opportunities to work with local user groups to assist with clearing trails of fallen trees and making the area safe again for public travel.”
The BLM is committed to shared conservation and respects the ties that native and traditional communities have to public lands in the Little Rocky Mountains. As stewards, the BLM manages public lands for the benefit of current and future generations, supporting conservation as we pursue our multiple-use mission.