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Forest seeks public comment on logging project northwest of Whitefish

by Whitefish Pilot
| June 22, 2022 1:00 AM

The Flathead National Forest has released the environmental assessment for the Round Star Project which also starts a 30-day comment period for the public to review the project and provide feedback.

The project area is located on the northwest side of the Flathead Valley, on the Tally Lake Ranger District. According to the Forest, the project would reduce tree densities and fuel loadings within the wildland-urban interface, diversify plant and tree communities, provide a mix of forest products for local economies, and expand recreation opportunities in the Round Meadow Cross-Country Ski Area.

Approximately 87% of the Round Star project area is in the wildland-urban interface. The forest says the Round Star Project would lower tree densities and reduce surface fuels to reduce the likelihood of stand-replacing fire within the wildland-urban interface, a release states. The treatments would also increase the presence of large size classes of trees over time, which could also help maintain low levels of insect and disease activity in the project area. To achieve these objectives, the project proposes commercial timber harvest on up to 6,660 acres and non-commercial vegetation treatments on up to 2,866 acres. To implement these vegetation management activities, approximately 20 miles of system roads would be placed on the Forest road system. These system roads would be closed year-round to public motorized access following implementation. Additional actions would include 3.4 miles of temporary road construction which would be rehabilitated after use.

The majority of this project area was identified as part of the priority areas for focused attention on fuels reduction in the 2020 Montana Forest Action Plan and is partially located within the Connecting Fuels Treatments in the Salish Mountains and Whitefish Range Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership Project Area.

The Round Meadow Cross-Country Ski Area is located on the northeast side of the Round Star Project. This area provides groomed Nordic skiing and snowshoeing during the winter season, and hiking, biking and equestrian use during the summer. Round Meadow has seen an increase in use in recent years, and the additional infrastructure and trails would allow the recreation area to keep up with rising visitation. The Round Star Project would add 5.6 miles of non-motorized trail to the Round Meadow trail system on the south side of NFSR 539. An additional parking area of approximately 0.6 acres would be constructed for the southside trails.

The project would also add a warming shelter at the main Round Meadow Trailhead. Next to the warming shelter, the Forest would add a storage building. The storage building would be used to store Forest Service-owned grooming equipment on site. The Forest also plans to expand the Round Meadow parking area by 0.3 acres. The expansion would allow ease of access for horse trailers and would provide additional parking spaces during the busy winter season.

The comment period is for the public to review the document, ask questions about the activities and provide comments on the document. Public comments will be used to refine the environmental assessment. For the complete environmental assessment, visit the project page at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=60892.

Input received will be considered part of the public record. Electronic input may be submitted to: comments-northern-flathead-tally-lake@usda.gov with “Round Star Project” in the subject line. Contact Kira Powell, Project Leader, if you would like more information or have questions regarding the project at (406)758-3508.

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