Forest Service Seeking Public Input on Whitefish Fuels Reduction Project

Timber harvest, prescribed burning proposed in watershed near Whitefish Mountain Resort due to fire danger

The U.S. Forest Service is seeking public input on a strategy to thin a dense section of forested land east of Whitefish Mountain Resort, where wildfire concerns have driven a collaborative effort to reduce fuels in a watershed that includes the city’s primary drinking source.

The proposal, called the Whitefish Municipal Fuels Reduction Project, would include thinning, prescribed burning and commercial timber harvest.

The project is located in the wildland-urban interface approximately four miles northeast of Whitefish, within the municipal watershed that is the primary source of water for city residents. Proposed activities include timber harvest on approximately 260 acres of forestlands and fuel treatments, primarily prescribed burning, on approximately 880 acres.

The potential for a large, destructive wildfire in the watershed has driven concerns about the watershed for more than a decade, prompting Gov. Steve Bullock to designate it as a priority for treatment through the 2014 Farm Bill.

Learn more about the Farm Bill here.

A local group called the Whitefish Face Working Group met regularly last year to develop a plan for the watershed. The group includes residents as well as stakeholders from the timber industry and recreation groups. The group pitched the fuels reduction project to the Forest Service earlier this year, including the timber harvest and prescribed burn proposals.

The area is adjacent to Haskill Basin, a 3,000-acre conservation easement that keeps the land permanently protected for water, wildlife and recreation uses, while still allowing sustainable timber management to continue.

The Tally Lake Ranger District is accepting comments about the proposed action until June 17.

Comments can be mailed to 650 Wolfpack Way, Kalispell, MT 59901, attention Deb Bond, or emailed to comments-northern-flathead-tally-lake@fs.fed.us. Include “Whitefish Municipal Watershed Fuel Reduction” in the subject line.

For more information about the project, visit, www.fs.usda.gov/projects/flathead/landmanagement/projects, or contact Project Leader, Deb Bond at 406-758-5318.