Managers of the Flathead National Forest are considering allowing lightning-caused fires to burn this summer if the conditions are right.
While many wildfires will be fought, others can provide “a valuable tool for land managers,” said Steve Brady, Swan Lake district ranger for the Flathead National Forest. “Decisions to use naturally ignited fire as a tool for resource management objectives are made incident by incident, and only in certain conditions,” he said.
Since 1983, tens of thousands of acres of wilderness areas have been allowed to burn. The “let it burn” policy was put in place after scientists realized that some plants and animals need fires to create habitat or better growing conditions.
Now, wildland fire use will be an option on other forest land if the time and place are right, the long-term climate and short-term weather forecasts are right and the terrain is right, officials said.
Last year, Flathead National Forest officials let some fires burn around the Hungry Horse Reservoir. Now, they’re looking to more lands as possible wildland fire use sites, hoping to restore forest health and use up fuel to reduce the risk of a catastrophic fire in the future.
“When a fire can benefit the forest and wildlife, and there are no values at risk, we will consider,” letting the fire burn, said Jimmy DeHerrera, district ranger on the Hungry Horse-Glacier View district.
The Flathead National Forest is holding public meetings on its expanded wildland fire use program over the next several weeks.
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