Ashland, MT – October 31, 2022 – The Custer Gallatin National Forest, Ashland Ranger District is providing an opportunity for public comment and review on the Draft Environmental Assessment for the South Otter Landscape Restoration and Resiliency Project, located approximately six miles south of Ashland, MT, and Highway 212. The project, encompassing 292,000 acres of National Forest System lands is primarily the southern portion of the Ashland Ranger District and substantially overlaps the Powder River and Rosebud Counties Community Wildfire Protection Plans, which aim to identify and protect values at risk for the respective communities.
Utilizing prescribed fire (184,150 acres), commercial harvest (26,350 acres), non-commercial thinning (11,165 acres) and focused planting efforts (39,940 acres), this project aims to in an 8-10-year timeframe:
- improve overall forest resiliency in ponderosa pine forested areas,
- provide for biological and structural diversity,
- reduce the risk of large-scale catastrophic wildlife and reduce fuel loading in existing forested stands.
Additionally, proposed treatments will refresh native grasslands and forested areas, and provide local jobs, services, and products (estimated 139 jobs and $7.0 million in labor income).
“Over a third of the of the Ashland Ranger District’s landscape has burned since 2012, with high severity and high intensity, resulting in high levels of tree mortality and direct cover type changes from forested to non-forested,” said Ashland District Ranger Ron Hecker. Today, we have about 25% of the Ashland Ranger District covered by forested vegetation and when walking the landscape, we see an overwhelming abundance of seedling and sapling size class trees.”
This project aims to use forest management tools such as prescribed burning and thinning to reduce the effects of large-scale wildland fires and enhance or maintain conditions on the ground that welcome frequent low-intensity fire events.
Prescribed burns would increase plant forage, palatability and yield 3-5 years post burn. Grasses and forbs are expected to increase and benefit big game wildlife species in both the short and long-term. Where old growth patches do exist, they would be retained on the landscape. The project would utilize temporary roads and close them within three years post-implementation. Approximately 25 miles of system roads that are closed to the public are proposed to be decommissioned after vegetation treatments are complete.
To review documents, download or submit comments visit online at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=58396 or www.fs.usda.gov/custergallatin, select Managing the Land, and then select Projects to navigate to all forest-wide projects. Commenting is open for 30-days beginning the day after the legal notice published in the Billings Gazette on October 26, 2022. All public comments received are part of project record.
Choose to opt-in to participate in forest-wide project notifications or topic-based project, depending upon interests. For general information follow Custer Gallatin National Forest: https://www.facebook.com/CusterGallatinNationalForest or on Twitter @CusterNF; @GallatinNF.
Pile Burning Across Custer Gallatin NF, Conditions Permitting
Gardiner, Yellowstone Ranger Districts Prepare for Pile Burning
Livingston, MT – October 31, 2022 – Fire managers across the Gardiner and Yellowstone Ranger Districts, Custer Gallatin National Forest are preparing units for fall and winter pile burning. Piles are a result of hazardous trees and fuels mitigation work across the districts including the Main Boulder in Falls Creek and Hells Canyon campgrounds, along with tributaries to the East Boulder, south of Big Timber (Long Horse units) and the OTO Dude Ranch area in Cedar Creek. The Smith Shields corridor also has numerous hand piles where crews hope to focus this winter.
“Many of the units across the Forest involved thinning and piling work, which is a tool to help improve firefighter and public safety,” said Bob Culbreth, Fire Management Officer, Yellowstone & Gardiner Ranger Districts. “Reducing hazardous fuels around infrastructures, cleaning up around campgrounds, and thinning are helpful in reducing tree density in forested stands, along with reducing conifer encroachment in meadows and aspen stands.”
Piles in Smith Creek are part of the Smith Shields Forest Health Project, designed to reduce tree mortality to future insect infestations and reduce tree densities and fuel loading. This project helps to improve stand structure, function and composition and reduce wildfire risk to local communities. There are also about 40+ landing slash piles remaining for clean-up from the American Fork Fire Salvage.
Fire managers work with the National Weather Service to determine weather conditions, including a site-specific forecast and smoke dispersal forecast. In addition, a burn plan is prepared to ensure objectives are met in a safe manner. The pile burns will be monitored by fire managers during and after implementation.
Burning is likely to occur mid-November through the end of March, pending weather conditions with many smaller hand piles being consumed in one day and with limited smoke impacts. Larger machine created piles are expected to be burned later in the season and may actively burn for several days and produce small amounts of smoke for more extended periods.
For questions contact your local respective Ranger District officers: Yellowstone – 406-222-1892; Gardiner – 406-848-7375 or follow Custer Gallatin National Forest: https://www.facebook.com/CusterGallatinNationalForest or on Twitter @CusterNF; @GallatinNF.