Forest Seeks Public Input on Round Star Logging Project near Whitefish

Management goal is to reduce fuel density, mitigate fire behavior near communities in wildland-urban interface; proposal includes expansion of cross-country ski area

By Tristan Scott
The Flathead National Forest surrounding Tally Lake. Beacon file photo

As part of an ongoing effort to reduce wildfire hazards in the region’s wildland-urban interface, Flathead National Forest officials are proposing a timber project on a 28,300-acre segment of the Tally Lake Ranger District west of Whitefish.

Dubbed the Round Star Project, the proposal calls for commercial timber harvests on up to 6,600 acres and non-commercial vegetation treatments on up to 2,859 acres, as well as the construction of more than 20 miles of new roads. 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 Area, according to Tally Lake District Ranger Bill Mulholland.

The project area’s northeast side abuts the Round Meadow Recreation Area, which provides opportunities for groomed Nordic skiing and snowshoeing during the winter season and hiking, biking and equestrian use during the summer. Like other recreational areas in the Flathead Valley, the Round Meadow trails have seen an increase in use in recent years, and the Round Star Project would include the addition of 4.2 miles of non-motorized trail to accommodate the influx of visitors, Mulholland said.

“These trails would be groomed in the winter season for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. The project also proposes to add a warming shelter at the Round Meadow trailhead,” according to Mulholland. “The warming shelter would be a heated building where visitors could put on their boots or enjoy a picnic lunch.”

Beside the warming shelter, the project would include a new storage building to accommodate government-owned grooming equipment at the trailhead, as well as an expansion of the Round Meadow parking area. The expansion would allow ease of access for horse trailers and would provide additional parking spaces during the busy winter season, Mulholland stated.

Approximately 84 percent of the Round Star project area is located in the wildland-urban interface, according to the project proposal, which includes objectives such as lowering tree densities and reducing surface fuels to reduce the likelihood of wildfire.

“The treatments would also increase the presence of large size classes of tree species over time, which could also help maintain low levels of insect and disease activity in the project area,” the proposal states.

The new roads would be closed year-round to public motorized access following implementation, the proposal states. Additional actions would include 3.4 miles of temporary road construction which would be rehabilitated after use, and 1.5 miles of road changed from open year-round to open seasonally.

Comments may be submitted to: [email protected] with “Round Star Project” in the subject line. Please send written input to Ellen Mering, Project Leader, Tally Lake Ranger Station, 650 Wolfpack Way, Kalispell, MT  59901. Members of the public should contact Mering for more information regarding the project at (406)758-3508.

The release of the proposed action earlier this month started a 30-day comment period for the public to review the document, ask questions about the proposed activities, and provide comments on the proposal. Comments will be accepted through Jan. 7, 2022. For a complete description of proposed actions and maps, visit the project page at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=60892.

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