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Forest Service approves large project near Tally Lake

by CHAD SOKOL
Daily Inter Lake | October 18, 2021 11:00 AM

The U.S. Forest Service has approved a large logging and tree-thinning project near Tally Lake.

The Stovepipe Project will span roughly 32,400 acres of the Flathead National Forest on the east side of the Reid Divide, to the south and east of Tally Lake. The area includes the Lost Creek and Cliff Creek drainages.

In a letter Thursday announcing the agency's decision to move forward with the project, Tally Lake District Ranger William Mulholland said the plan "includes 7,205 acres of vegetation management to reduce fire behavior characteristics in the wildland-urban interface [and] improve the diversity and resiliency of vegetative communities on the National Forest System lands, while contributing to the continued timber production and economic stability of the surrounding communities."

The plan also involves the construction of several miles of temporary forest roads.

Following a 30-day public comment period earlier this year, the Forest Service received objections from the Native Ecosystem Council and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, who raised concerns about potential effects on bull trout, grizzly bears and Canada lynx — all of which are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act — as well as old-growth trees, wolverines and other species whose habitat would be affected.

Mulholland wrote in his decision: "I have determined that the benefits of improving landscape forest's age diversity, species composition and vegetative structure, resulting in reduced fire intensity and increased firefighter and public safety, as well as the increase in personal and commercial products to the local economy, outweigh the short-term and limited effects to any of the concerns raised during the comment period.

"The activities and effects are all within the allowance of the forest plan and will not have significant effects on the quality of the human environment considering the context and intensity of impacts," he added.

Project documents can be found at fs.usda.gov/project/?project=58217.