Flathead Forest begins taking comments on Stovepipe project

by Whitefish Pilot
| June 16, 2020 12:18 PM

The Flathead National Forest is seeking public input on a new proposed timber and fuels reduction project planned for south and east of Tally Lake.

The Stovepipe Project is about 32,400 acres in size and is proposed for on the east side of the Reid Divide in the Tally Lake Ranger District. The goal of the project is to reduce forest fuels in the wildland-urban interface. It would also improve emergency egress for neighborhoods in the area, promote fire resistant tree species, and provide a mix of forest products for local lumber mills, according to the forest.

“We have a great opportunity to reduce the risk of future high intensity fires next to the communities of Whitefish and Kalispell,” said Tally Lake District Ranger Bill Mulholland. “Tally Lake Ranger District sits next to many neighborhoods, and we need to continue to manage the forest to provide great habitat, recreation, timber, and also fire resilience.”

The forest released a scoping notice on the proposed action May 27.

Though the project would take place on national forest service land, the land ownership within the project area is about 60% national forest land and 40% private or state-owned land.

The forest proposes commercial timber harvest on up to 4,950 acres and noncommercial fuels management on up to 2,327 acres.

About 17 miles of temporary and permanent roads would be constructed to access the project area. Most of the new roads would be closed to public motorized vehicles but would be available for non-motorized recreation when not in use for log hauling.

It would also build two new roads to provide better egress routes for isolated communities.

The forest also proposes to remove 1 mile of existing road along Lost Creek that is in poor condition and not believed to be needed for future management. Another 2.6 miles would be closed to offset the opening of other routes for year-round use.

About 77 miles of existing road would be maintained to reduce runoff and erosion, improve culverts, and better manage water drainage.

The forest expects to conduct an environmental assessment this summer, which will be provided for additional public comment and begin working on a final decision by late winter 2021.

The forest is asking for comments by June 26.

Electronic input may be submitted to: comments-northern-flathead-tally-lake@usda.gov with “Stovepipe Project” in the subject line. Written comment may be sent to Tami MacKenzie; Tally Lake Ranger Station; 650 Wolfpack Way; Kalispell, MT 59901.

For more information, contact Tami MacKenzie, project team leader, at tamara.mackenzie@usda.gov or (406) 758-3508 or visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=58217.