Forest Service Issues Final Decision on “Blue Mountain Area” of Wildfire Adapted Missoula Project
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: December 21, 2023

Missoula, Mont., December 21, 2023 — This week the Lolo National Forest issued a final decision notice for a 16,940-acre portion of the Wildfire Adapted Missoula (WAM) Project, to be implemented over the next 20 years. This decision boundary is located on the Missoula Ranger District in the “Blue Mountain Area” within the southwestern boundary of the greater WAM project area.

The WAM project is built upon science and cross-boundary collaboration to conduct landscape scale strategic fuels treatments on 177,229 acres, designed to return fire adapted landscapes to a more resilient condition and promote fire’s natural role in ecosystems, where appropriate.

This project began to take shape in 2016 with a group of local agency representatives convening to work towards meeting the three goals of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy – Forest Resilience, Fire Adapted Communities and Safe and Effective Wildfire Response.

“The Wildfire Adapted Missoula project has a long history of collaborative planning in the name of wildfire risk reduction and forest health, and this decision is a key step towards realizing this vision,” said Crystal Stonesifer, District Ranger, Missoula Ranger District, Lolo National Forest.

The Forest issued a Draft Decision Notice for WAM in November 2021 which generated a variety of concerns regarding the need to expedite implementation of project activities, streamline consultation on threatened and endangered species, focus on activities within the wildland urban interface and provide clear communication through planning and implementation.

“With the WAM Blue Mountain Decision, we have positioned ourselves to begin implementing critical fuels reduction work in key wildland urban interface areas, while we step through planning and consultation for the broader project area. We believe that this approach best addresses public concerns and sets this project up for success,” said Stonesifer.

This is one of two currently anticipated decisions the Forest intends to issue from the WAM Environmental Assessment. This first decision in the Blue Mountain Area authorizes vegetation treatments on approximately 15,887 acres within the project footprint. Treatments include both mechanized and non-mechanized means, with some related road activity, although most of the decision area (13,687 acres) authorizes non-mechanized actions, such as hand-thinning and prescribed fire.

The decision identifies 11,873 acres that can be treated with one of six different non-mechanized treatments (for example, hand thinning and prescribed burning) based on current conditions at the time of implementation.

“One of the unique aspects of the decision is the ability for us to select the most effective treatment based on real-time conditions at the time of implementation for a large portion of the acreage,” said Stonesifer. “As we implement the project over the next 20 years, we can be responsive to the ever-changing conditions and implement the appropriate treatment to meet the project’s purpose and need.”

The remaining acres have specific treatments identified within specific unit boundaries. Methods include non-mechanized treatments on 1,703 acres and mechanized treatments including mechanized thinning that will be completed with a timber sale contract, shaded fuel breaks, biomass removal, prescribed burning and hand thinning on 3,760 acres. Some treatment methods overlap.

“Public involvement has played a large part in this project and moving ahead the Forest will continue to share information, in particular, around the planned non-mechanical treatments in advance of work happening on the ground,” said Stonesifer.


Activities within the Blue Mountain Area could begin as early as next summer.

For more information on the Wildfire Adapted Missoula project, please visit To review the Final Decision Notice for Blue Mountain, please visit

For more information about the Lolo National Forest, please visit the website at or follow updates on Facebook and X

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