Tag Archives: Flathead National Forest

A lot of homework to study

Flathead National Forest
Flathead National Forest

Here’s the Missoulian’s take on the final draft of the new Flathead Forest Plan . . .

With the clock ticking on a 60-day objection window, people who play in the Flathead National Forest have a lot of homework to study.

U.S. Forest Service analysts made many changes to backcountry areas in their draft forest plan released this month. The proposal recommends a new wilderness area between Whitefish and Polebridge. It might increase mechanized access around the Jewel Basin by Bigfork, and could affect hunter access in popular elk country.

“The draft plan adopts a large part of the Whitefish Range Partnership agreement, including 80,000 acres of recommended wilderness that was never recommended before,” said Amy Robinson of Montana Wilderness Association. “And it looks like there’s more recommendation for high-intensity recreation area in the southern range than was in the last draft.”

Read more . . .

Document dump delivers lots of reading on fate of Montana’s grizzly bears

Grizzly bear inspects rock west of White Sulphur Springs - Montana FWP
Grizzly bear inspects rock west of White Sulphur Springs – Montana FWP

Lots of interesting reading; lots of useful links. Recommended . . .

Montana’s grizzly bears better hope they packed their reading glasses as they settle into their winter naptime: There’s a lot of homework to finish over the Christmas holidays.

The Flathead National Forest Plan final draft, released Thursday, includes the proposed rules for managing grizzlies in four national forests that share management responsibility for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. Public comments are due in mid-February.

On Monday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put out a request for reviews of its draft criteria for habitat-based recovery of the NCDE grizzlies. That same day, it published four peer-review responses to the plan. It also announced a Jan. 3 workshop in Missoula to collect “the input of scientists, the public and interested organizations.” Written responses to the regulations are due Jan. 26.

Read more . . .

Flathead National Forest unveils revised plan for future management

Flathead National Forest

The Flathead Beacon posted their coverage of the near-final version of the Flathead National Forest’s new forest plan and it’s the best article yet. The Whitefish Range Partnership even gets a nod . . .

After four years thrashing out the details of a proposed management plan for the Flathead National Forest, a blueprint has emerged to guide a wide range of uses on 2.4 million acres of ecologically and economically productive land for the next decade or more.

Land managers hope the final product will strike an accord that balances wilderness, timber production, recreation, wildlife conservation, and other interests, but said divisions will undoubtedly prompt objections from user groups in the next two months.

Still, although he acknowledges that land-use disputes will continue as long as public land exists, Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber said the proposed plan considered the needs of all stakeholders — tree huggers and tree cutters, hikers, horsemen, mountain bikers, snowmobilers, cabin owners, boaters, anglers, grizzlies, and nearly everyone else with a stake in the management of public lands on the Flathead National Forest.

Read more . . .

Objection period begins for Flathead Forest plan

Flathead National Forest - view of Whitefish Divide

Here’s a little bit different spin on the just-released, near-final version of the Flathead Forest’s new forest plan. There’s less discussion of the plan itself and more about the difficulties it is likely to face in the courts . . .

The U.S. Forest Service has released the draft record of decision and final environmental impact statement for the Flathead National Forest revised land and resource management plan for a 60-day objection period.

These documents mark the final steps in completing the plan, which the Forest Service expects to guide management for 10 to 15 years. As the Daily Inter Lake reported in October, it’s inching towards completion after four years and considerable controversy.

The draft environmental impact statement set out multiple courses of action for managers to pursue. Of these, Forest Supervisor Chip Weber selected alternative B. In the draft record of decision, he claimed that it “has the best mix of management areas that reflects what I heard the public wanted.”

Read more . . .

Flathead National Forest releases draft record of decision for new forest plan

Lake in Flathead National Forest

The Hungry Horse News has an excellent overview of the near-final version of the Flathead National Forest’s new forest plan . . .

After four years of meetings, field trips and more than 33,000 public comments, Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber Thursday released the draft record of decision and final environmental impact statement for the Flathead National Forest plan.

The new plan will replace a plan that was last written and conceived in 1986, but has been amended more than two dozen times over the years.

The new plan, a modified version of alternative B that was set in the draft environmental impact statement, sets the direction for land management of the 2.4 million acre Forest for the next 10 to 15 years, Weber said during an interview with members of the press on Thursday. “This is a highly cherished land,” he said. “…One of the best functioning ecosystems in the world.”

Read more . . .

Final draft of Flathead Forest Plan released; 60-day countdown for objections

Lake in Flathead National Forest

The Flathead National Forest released the final draft of their new forest plan today, as well as the final version of a substantial pile of related environmental impact documentation. This is a big deal because the forest plan determines how the forest will be managed over at least the next 10-15 years.

Also, today (December 14, 2017) starts the clock on a 60-day “objection period.” For all practical purposes, today’s release is the final version of the forest plan, unless individuals or groups who have contributed to the planning process file a valid objection regarding “specific remaining concerns.” In other words, there’s a 60-day window to suggest technical and factual edits.

The press release below has links to the forest plan document and associated materials. For just the draft forest plan document itself, it can be downloaded directly here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd566356.pdf (410 pages, PDF format, 23.9MB).

Here is the meat of the official press release . . .

Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber has released the draft record of decision and final environmental impact statement for the Flathead National Forest revised land and resource management plan (referred to as the “forest plan”) for a 60-day objection period. The existing forest plan is more than 30 years old, dramatically exceeding the 10-15 year duration of plans directed by the National Forest Management Act. Since the 1986 forest plan was completed, there have been changes in ecological, social, and economic conditions in the area, as well as changes in resource demands, availability of new scientific information, and promulgation of new policy, including the 2012 planning rule. These changes necessitate a plan revision to ensure that management direction is responsive to current issues and conditions. In particular, the plan revision addresses the following topics:

  • increasing demand for recreation opportunities and their importance in supporting local economies;
  • fire and fuels management direction that emphasizes active vegetation management near communities;
  • the need for additional analyses for a number of resources, including timber production opportunities, an important historical driver for local economies;
  • conservation of wildlife and aquatic habitat, including updating grizzly bear habitat management direction and Inland Native Fish direction; and
  • new policy and public interest in identifying areas for recommended wilderness and wild and scenic rivers.

Continue reading Final draft of Flathead Forest Plan released; 60-day countdown for objections

Forest Service seeks input on the ‘Crystal Cedar’ Project

Crystal Cedar Project General Vicinity Map
Crystal Cedar Project General Vicinity Map

From the official press release . . .

The Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest is asking for public input on management opportunities on National Forest System lands north of Columbia Falls and west of the Flathead River. This area includes Crystal Creek, Cedar Flats, Spoon Lake, Blankenship, and Teakettle Mountain.

The Crystal Cedar project aims to reduce hazardous fuels in the wildland-urban interface, improve the health and diversity of forest vegetation communities, and provide a range of trail-based recreation opportunities near the community of Columbia Falls.

The Flathead National Forest wants to hear from you. We want to understand how the community uses the area and what types of management you want to see. Comments are most helpful if provided by December 15, 2017.

More details about the Crystal Cedar project area, a map of the project area, and instructions on how to provide information to the district can be found online at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=52844. The Web site also allows you to subscribe to electronic updates on the project so you can stay up to date on project development.

To find out more about the project, please contact Sarah Canepa, project team leader, at the Hungry Horse Ranger Station, 406-387-3800.

Conservation groups to sue Flathead Forest over road management

Lake in Flathead National Forest
Lake in Flathead National Forest

A coalition of conservation groups intends to sue the Flathead Forest over their management of logging roads . . .

In what may be the first shot fired over the bow of the soon-to-be-released new Flathead National Forest land use plan, three conservation groups filed intent to sue over management of the logging roads on the 2.4-million acre forest.

The groups claim the forest hasn’t met its obligations under the Endangered Species Act to protect threatened bull trout due to inadequate management and monitoring of logging roads, in particular the thousands of culverts that can fail and deposit sediment into trout streams.

Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber said that while he can’t comment on the pending lawsuit, he will say the water quality on the Flathead Forest is the most pristine of any place he’s worked before, including Alaska.

Read more . . .

Next step in Flathead Forest Plan revision delayed a little longer

Lake in Flathead National Forest
Lake in Flathead National Forest

According to this note from Chip Weber, Flathead National Forest Supervisor, the next step in the forest plan revision is going to take just a little longer. They are still on track to wind the whole thing up in early 2018, though . . .

Hello,

I would like to update you on the status of the final environmental impact statement for the revised forest plan and the draft records of decision. In addition to addressing the effects of the Flathead National Forest revised forest plan, the final environmental impact statement includes discussion of the environmental consequences of the forest plan amendments to incorporate habitat-related management direction for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bear population on the Helena-Lewis and Clark, Kootenai, and Lolo National Forests.

We had planned to have the documents out for the pre-decisional administrative review process; commonly referred to as the objection process in October however we now plan to release the documents in November pending the completion of some of the documents.  The schedule on our webpage has been updated to reflect this change. Continue reading Next step in Flathead Forest Plan revision delayed a little longer

Flathead Forest Plan final EIS and draft records of decision slated for October

Fireweed below Nasukoin Lake, Aug 12, 2017 - W. K. Walker
Fireweed below Nasukoin Lake, Aug 12, 2017 – W. K. Walker

We’re getting there, with a near-final version of the Flathead National Forest’s revised forest plan due out in October. Barring any significant further delays, the final version of the whole package should be released around March 2018.

From this afternoon’s official press release . . .

The Flathead National Forest release of the final environmental impact statement and draft records of decision for the revised forest plan and forest plan amendments is now slated for October due to the need to coordinate schedules with the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the U.S. Forest Service.

In addition to addressing the effects of the Flathead National Forest revised forest plan, the final environmental impact statement includes discussion of the environmental consequences of the forest plan amendments to incorporate habitat-related management direction for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bear population on the Helena-Lewis and Clark, Kootenai, and Lolo National Forests.

The final environmental impact statement and draft records of decision will be subject to a pre-decisional administrative review process, commonly referred to as the objection process. The Forest Service’s objection process provides an opportunity to have any unresolved concerns reviewed by the Forest Service prior to a final decision by the responsible official. Objections will be accepted only from those who have previously submitted substantive formal comments during an opportunity for public participation provided during the planning process and attributed to the individual or entity providing them.

For more information, please call Joe Krueger, plan revision team leader, at 406-758-5243 or visit www.fs.usda.gov/goto/flathead/fpr.

Read the full press release (PDF, 132KB).


Also, here is a related letter from Chip Weber, Flathead National Forest Supervisor, explaining the reasons behind the delay in this stage of the forest plan revision . . .

Hello,

I would like to update you on the status of the final environmental impact statement for the revised forest plan and the draft records of decision. In addition to addressing the effects of the Flathead National Forest revised forest plan, the final environmental impact statement includes discussion of the environmental consequences of the forest plan amendments to incorporate habitat-related management direction for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bear population on the Helena-Lewis and Clark, Kootenai, and Lolo National Forests.

We had planned to have the documents out for the pre-decisional administrative review process, commonly referred to as the objection process, in August but because of the need to coordinate schedules with the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the U.S. Forest Service, we now plan to release the documents in October. The schedule on our webpage has been updated to reflect this change.

I appreciate your patience and continued interest in the revised forest plan for the Flathead National Forest as well as the forest plan amendments for the Helena-Lewis and Clark, Kootenai, and Lolo National Forests. I greatly appreciate the commitment of the interested participants who have provided important contributions toward the development of the revised forest plan and amendments.

For further information about the project, contact Joe Krueger, plan revision team leader, at 406-758-5243. Thank you for your continued interest in the management of your public lands.

Sincerely,

 Chip Weber
Forest Supervisor