Forest Service Issues Decision on the Sorrel Springs Hazardous Fuels Project
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: September 14, 2022

Frenchtown, Mont. Sept. 14, 2022 —The Lolo National Forest has issued a Decision on the Sorrel Springs Hazardous Fuels Project located on the Ninemile Ranger District north of Frenchtown, MT, within the Houle and Roman Creek drainages. The Decision authorizes treatments within the 160-acre project area which is situated entirely within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) and adjacent to both private and Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation lands (DNRC). The project will improve forest health by removing dead and diseased trees that are contributing to tree stress and fuel-loading in the area.

Currently, the project area consists of a high density of mature Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir trees causing tree stress and an increase in susceptibility to insects and disease. Additionally, trees within the project area are being impacted by pine beetle, Douglas-fir beetle, and root disease, adding to an increased amount of dead and diseased trees and wildfire risk.

“This multi-faceted project complements the ongoing fuels reduction work already completed on adjacent State land and in the neighboring Sorrel Springs subdivision,” stated Chris Gauger, Ninemile District Ranger. “We’ve listened to our neighbors and the residents in this area told us directly of their desire to see fuels reduction occur on adjacent National Forest lands to address forest health in strategic areas in nearby communities.”

The Forest has worked closely with both residents and partners throughout the development of this project. Residents and homeowners nearby the project area have partnered with the Frenchtown Rural Fire Department for more than a decade to treat fuels on their land as part of the Wildfire Risk Reduction Program which is managed by the local fire district. The Sorrel Springs project builds upon these ongoing cross-boundary and partnership efforts.

Additionally, the Ninemile Ranger District and the Montana DNRC are working on a Good Neighbor Authority Agreement to implement this project. The agreement enables the agencies to integrate staff and expertise to remove dead and diseased trees through a commercial timber sale administered by the DNRC and provides a framework for both agencies to work together to accelerate the pace of projects on National Forest lands in areas with cross-boundary benefits.

The Decision authorizes a variety of treatment methods to address the unhealthy forest conditions in this area including commercial and non-commercial thinning, mechanical piling and pile burning. No new permanent roads will be constructed for this project. Implementation is expected to begin in 2023.

For more information, please visit the  Lolo National Forest Projects Page or call the Ninemile Ranger District at 406-626-5201.