Wildfire mitigation project faces another hurdle - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Wildfire mitigation project faces another hurdle

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HELENA, Mont.- 2017 has been marked as one of the worst fire seasons in Montana’s history.  However, a blocked plan in 2016 could be partially to blame for the amount of devastation two fires near Lincoln caused.
the forest service says a legal battle could change the outlook for the Lewis and Clark National Forest.

In the summer of 2016, the Lewis and Clark National Forest gave the green light to a logging and prescribed burning project called the Stonewall Vegetation Project out of Lincoln. Its hopes were to create resilient forest conditions. But a court injunction from two environmentalist groups delayed the project, allowing for the Park Creek and Arrastra wildfires to burn more rampantly. Now efforts to stop the spread of wildfires in the area are put on the back burner yet again.

"We're still trying to implement this project that can help modify the vegetation so that we don't have a repeat of a big fire like this. That’s the goal of that project,” said Kathy Bushnell, Public Affairs Officer for the Lewis and Clark National Forest.

The merged fires burned about 56 percent of project area . As a result, there is substantial impact to the groundwater, soil, and aspects of wildlife, mainly elk habitats. Now the national forest division will have to modify their approach. 

"Looking at the project area as a whole and seeing what some of those unburned areas look like, maybe we don't need to go in there anymore, maybe we do [what we need to do]  to ensure that it doesn't carry onto a part of the forest that's outside of the project area,” said Bushnell.

The project may seem like its simply trying to project the forest, but it really an issue of public safety.

"We're trying to manage their public lands so that they can enjoy them in a safe place where there aren't a lot of standing, dead trees," said Bushnell.  

The implementation was slated to take place late this summer. Forest Supervisor Bill Avey says this change has not wavered his willingness to go through with the project
.

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