Missoula, MT, Jan. 20, 2023—The Missoula Ranger District is asking for public feedback on the proposed Granite Graves Shaded Fuelbreak Project located within the Fish, Graves, and Howard Creek drainages north of Highway 12 on National Forest lands in Missoula and Mineral Counties. The 1,971-acre project area is located mainly within the Wildland Urban Interface and utilizes Section 40806 in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to reduce fuels in strategic locations.
The project proposes shaded fuelbreaks along 37 miles of critical public roadways that are utilized as primary ingress and egress, and as a key transportation network for initial response to emergencies and wildfires. The road network also supports access to many residences and recreation opportunities in the area and is adjacent to Highway 12; a major thoroughfare that supports tourism and commerce.
“This project allows us to prepare ahead of wildfire ignitions, where science and operational experience indicate we will be most effective,” stated Crystal Stonesifer, Missoula District Ranger. “Additionally, these shaded fuelbreaks help improve future fire management actions by providing additional safety for the public and first responders through improved egress and access.”
Shaded fuelbreaks are linear control features that have been treated to moderate fire spread and intensity. Treatments in this project would consist of thinning the understory along roads to reduce ladder fuels and tree density while leaving mature overstory intact. Treatments would be implemented by hand using chainsaws and would occur up to 300 feet from the identified roadsides. Thinning slash generated from the treatments would be hand-piled or scattered on site, followed by controlled burning (pile burning, jackpot burning or underburning).
“We have received valuable input from the Lolo Restoration Committee and our partners at the Missoula County Office of Emergency Management to meet collaborative goals of this project,” added Stonesifer. “We will continue these engagements as the project develops.”
Shaded fuelbreaks provide strategic access and defensible features for fire managers to utilize during a wildfire response to protect values at risk while also reducing risk to firefighters on the ground. Since 2000, approximately 35 fire starts have been recorded near or within the project area. In this area, wildfires typically spread east with the direction of prevailing winds often threatening developed recreation areas and private land. With pre-identified and constructed shaded fuelbreaks in place, fire managers can allocate limited time and resources to plan and implement tactics using these features with an increased probability of success.
How to Comment: Public comments will be accepted during a 30-day scoping comment period starting on Jan. 23 – Feb. 21, 2023. Comments may be submitted electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and contact information along with “Granite Graves” in the subject line, or they may be mailed to the following address:
Crystal Stonesifer, Missoula District Ranger
Missoula Ranger District
24 Fort Missoula Road
Missoula, MT 59804
Additional Information: While shaded fuelbreaks and strategic vegetation treatments help to improve opportunities for ingress and egress during emergency response, there are steps landowners can take to mitigate the risk of wildfire to private property and further create defensible space around their homes. For additional information on how you can prepare your home for wildfire season, please visit the Missoula County page for Wildfire Preparedness.