Private Timberlands Close to Public Recreation as Northwest Montana Enters Stage 2 Fire Restrictions

All public access to parcels owned by Stoltze Land and Lumber Co., including along stretches of the Whitefish Trail, will close starting next Monday; all public lands to enter Stage 2

By Micah Drew
A sign near the Big Mountain Trailhead of the Whitefish Trails system on May 13, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Amid the region’s extreme fire danger, F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company is implementing further restrictions and closing all its forest lands in the area to public use.

Starting Monday, Aug. 7, Stoltze is imposing restrictions on its roughly 40,000 acres of lands in Flathead, Lake and Lincoln counties. This includes the Haskill Basin and Trumbull Creek areas near Whitefish, as well as all land under easements including stretches of the Whitefish Trail accessed from the Reservoir and Big Mountain trailheads.

The restrictions prohibit all public access of any kind, including non-motorized and walk-in use, motorized vehicle use on and off roads, camping, smoking, fireworks, fires of any kind and the use of internal combustion engines.

“Stoltze appreciates your cooperation in helping protect our forest lands from the risk of wildfire,” company officials stated in a press release, while asking land users to report all fires and observed violations of these restrictions to authorities.

In addition, interagency fire managers have announced they are implementing Stage 2 fire restrictions across vast swaths of northwest Montana starting this weekend to further decrease the risk of new wildfire starts.

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5, the second category of fire restrictions will take effect across Flathead and Sanders counties, as well as on all state and private land classified as forested land in those counties. The Flathead, Kootenai and Lolo National Forest, as well as Glacier National Park and all land managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, also announced Wednesday that they would enter Stage 2 restrictions beginning Saturday.

Stage 2 fire restrictions have been in place for the Flathead Indian Reservation, Lake County and all state land and private classified forested land in this area since Aug. 1.

Under Stage 2 restrictions, the following acts are prohibited:

  • Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire or campfire, with no exceptions.
  • Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.
  • Operating motorized vehicles off designated roads and trails.
  • Between the hours of 1 p.m. and 1 a.m., operating any internal combustion engine, welding or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame, and using explosives is prohibited.

Anyone caught violating the restrictions or closures could be fined up to $5,000 per individual or $10,000 for an organization, as well as face up to 6 months in prison. Anyone found responsible for starting a wildland fire can be held liable for all suppression costs and damages.

Land management agencies in northwest Montana are currently responding to more than two dozen wildland fires in the region that have collectively torched more than 26,000 acres.

For current wildfire and restrictions information visit: https://www.mtfireinfo.org/

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