In a previous edition of the Flathead Beacon, Douglas Rigler of Whitefish authored an impassioned letter expressing concerns about the Forest Service’s proposed Frozen Moose Project in the North Fork. I understand his concerns, but I think they are both overstated and misguided.
We have been landowners of family-owned property in the North Fork since the late 1950s, courtesy of my parents. We border National Forest System Lands, and have suggested treatment options to them that actually include incorporating cross-boundary treatments with prescribed fire. Far from objecting to treatments bordering private property in the North Fork, many landowners appreciate the Forest Service’s responsiveness to requests for treatments adjacent to private lands that reduce fuel loading and will significantly reduce fire intensity and alter fire behavior as future wildfires approach private lands.
We in the West live in an environment that has evolved with wildfire. The large fires in the North Fork include the Red Bench Fire in 1988, Moose Fire in 2001, and the Wedge Canyon and Robert Fires in 2003. We know large, stand-replacing fires will visit the North Fork again in the future. Managing fuels on private property, as well as adjacent National Forest System Lands, significantly reduces the probability of losing our homesteads and cabins. In addition, fuels treatments along the North Fork Road are important to reduce fire intensities along that major escape route, making it safer for evacuees as well as responding emergency services personnel. I agree with North Fork neighbor Pat Cole’s support of these treatments in a recent issue of the Flathead Beacon.
I appreciate the Forest Service focusing efforts to manage fuels adjacent to private property and escape routes, and being responsive to landowner requests where they can. I am sure if Douglas, or any other North Forker, expressed concern about projects adjacent to their private property, the Forest Service would take that into consideration.
And yes, we harvest forest products off of our property, while meeting our management objectives over time. We have reduced fuel loadings and meet Firewise standards around our cabins and outbuildings. We also manage for outstanding wildlife habitat, including grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, lynx, elk, moose, deer and the full range of small mammals and furbearers – as well as raptors, birds, and now turkeys. I would be glad to show Douglas our place where thoughtful forest management has reduced fuel loadings while providing a myriad of benefits for wildlife as well as maintaining vigorous, diverse, healthy forest stands.
Thanks to the Forest Service for taking on this important project.
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