Forest takes comments on options for Salish-Good project

by Whitefish Pilot
March 24, 2020 12:12 PM

Flathead National Forest is taking public input about a timber and fuels project 20 miles north of Whitefish in the Tally Lake District.

The project, called Salish-Good, would reduce shrubs, brush, and closely spaced trees close to homes and other adjacent areas and allow commercial timber harvest to provide logs for local mills.

Located in the Good Creek drainage northwest of Whitefish, the Salish-Good project area includes about 51,247 acres that was analyzed and the forest developed proposals to move that area toward desired future conditions as outline in the Forest Plan. There are two alternatives being considered for the project — one includes timber harvest on about 6,000 acres and the second includes timber harvest on 3,000 acres.

Trees would be harvested to improve forest conditions and increase the numbers of certain tree species including hardwoods, ponderosa pine, western larch, whitebark pine, and other conifer species that typically emerge after fire disturbance, according to the Flathead Forest. Having a range of tree types and ages across a forest typically offers more resistance to insects and disease and can make it more resilient in large fires that occur in a warming climate.

Reducing fuels can improve firefighter success during wildfire events in the area, which includes dozens of homes and other structures.

“Active forest management projects like this one are extremely important to continue our multiple use agency mission not only to increase the chance of firefighter success during wildfires, but also to help sustain the health and diversity of our forests,” Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele said. “The project also helps support our local mills and economy by providing jobs.”

The forest is seeking public comment on the environmental assessment for the project by April 19.

Alternative B, the proposed action, would harvest timber on approximately 6,000 acres and reduce fuels on approximately 3,000 acres over about 10 years. It would build 8 miles of temporary and 39 miles of permanent administrative road, some of which would be open to hiking and biking when not in use for log hauling purposes. Dozens of culverts would be approved for replacement, removal, or improvement to reduce sediment and improve water quality and aquatic habitat.

Alternative C includes activities that are similar to B, but less management activities are proposed and additional roads would be closed to public access still occurring over about 10 years. Under the alternative, the forest would harvest timber on approximately 3,000 acres and reduce fuels on approximately 3,500 acres.

It would build 2 miles of temporary and 15 miles of permanent administrative road, some of which would be open to hiking and biking when not in use for log hauling purposes. Dozens of culverts would be approved for replacement, removal, or improvement to reduce sediment and improve water quality and aquatic habitat.

The public first commented on the Salish-Good project in 2015 during an early project scoping period. Concerns raised during the period include restricting public access on forest roads, the visual impacts of the project to private property and impacts to lynx habitat.

Out of approximately 2.4 million acres in Flathead National Forest, a little less than 500,000 acres are appropriate for recurring timber harvest due to constraints like topography, habitat, or wilderness designation. Through this project, the forest would build a system of logging roads to serve this project and future needs in the area.

For more information and to comment on the environmental assessment visit the Flathead National Forest’s website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=47257