Lolo Forest Makes Decision on Granite Graves Shaded Fuelbreak Project
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: May 5, 2023

Project improves public and firefighter safety and reduces likelihood of landscape scale wildfire

Missoula, MT, May 5, 2023—Today, the Missoula Ranger District released a Decision Memo approving the construction of a shaded fuelbreak in the Granite Graves area in the Lolo Creek watershed.  The 1,971-acre project area is located mainly within the Wildland Urban Interface along approximately 37 miles of existing roads.  The project aligns with historic investments by Congress through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides opportunities for strategic fuels reduction to respond to our Nation’s growing wildfire crisis.

The project improves the safety of ingress and egress routes for the public, emergency responders, and firefighters and reduces surface and ladder fuels, thereby reducing the likelihood of a landscape scale wildland fire.  Fuels reduction along the road network also supports access to many residences and recreation opportunities in the area, including treatments along Highway 12, a major thoroughfare that supports tourism and commerce.  Forest treatments will be implemented by hand using chainsaws up to 300 feet from the identified roadsides. Thinning slash generated from the treatments will be hand-piled or scattered on site, followed by controlled burning (pile burning, jackpot burning, or underburning).  Project implementation is anticipated to begin in June 2023.

“Non-mechanized fuels treatments will allow us to meet the purpose and need of the project, which is to efficiently implement shaded fuelbreaks in key strategic locations, improve safety of ingress and egress corridors, and simultaneously manage for the sensitivity of cultural and environmental resources,” said Crystal Stonesifer, Missoula District Ranger.

A shaded fuelbreak is a wildfire prevention strategy that involves thinning trees and removing brush in a strip of land to create a gap or break in the vegetation that could carry a wildfire.  The goal of a shaded fuelbreak is to reduce the amount of available fuel for a potential wildfire, and to create defensible space for firefighters to work from, should a fire occur.  The term “shaded” refers to the fact that the trees within the fuel break are not completely removed, but rather selectively thinned to create a patchwork of open areas and areas of remaining vegetation.  This approach helps to maintain some of the benefits of forest cover, such as wildlife habitat and erosion control, while reducing the risk of wildland fire.

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 Wildfire Preparedness webpage for more information.  For more information on the project please visit the Granite Graves Shaded Fuelbreak project page.

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