Flathead National Forest spring prescribed fire projects

Release Date: 

Kalispell, MT, April 3, 2023 — The Flathead National Forest is planning to conduct spring prescribed fire projects when weather, fuel conditions, and air quality become favorable.  Smoke will be visible from various places in the Flathead Valley depending on the location of the burn units and weather conditions. 

Each project follows a prescribed fire burn plan.  The prescribed fire projects are located and designed to be controlled to reduce the potential for adverse effects, or to escape as a wildland fire.  These projects will follow Montana air quality standards and coordinated with Montana State Department of Environmental Quality to reduce the impacts of smoke to our neighbors, cooperators, and surrounding communities. See map for the location of the following project areas:

Swan Lake Ranger District

Louie Timber Sales - This project includes broadcast burning in timber harvest units located within the Blacktail Mountain area west of Lakeside, MT, and South of Kila, MT. These treatments will use prescribed fire for fuels reduction, vegetation regeneration, and wildlife habitat improvement. 

How Now Timber Sale – This project includes broadcast burning in timber harvest units located on Sixmile Mountain, North of Swan Lake, MT.  These treatments will use prescribed fire for fuels reduction, and vegetation regeneration.

Swan Valley Bottom Maintenance BurningThis project includes maintenance broadcast burning in previously treated timber harvest units located within the Swan Valley. These treatments will use prescribed fire for fuels reduction, large ungulate winter range improvement, and improvement of forest health.

Pile Burning - Hand or machine piles are in locations within the Blacktail Mountain area, Swan Valley, Bigfork community, and miscellaneous piles around the district as a result of but not limited to logging, hazardous fuels reduction in the wildland urban interface, hazard tree removal, recreation site management and trail or road construction. These piles are burned to reduce fuel loads in these areas. These piles are strategically burned based on their location, access, and weather conditions.

Tally Lake Ranger District

Dateline 79/80, Swamp Rat 6, Salish Good GNA 67 – These projects of approximately 118 combined acres are to reduce timber harvest activity fuel loads, improve forest stand conditions, maintain, and improve terrestrial wildlife habitat, and help with site preparation for regeneration of early seral tree species that are more fire resilient. 

Stovepipe 903 – This 116-acre unit is located on the north side of Mountain Meadow Road on the west side of Flathead Valley, adjacent to private property. This prescribed fire will be highly visible from Kalispell and the surrounding area.  The intent is to improve the control of wildfires and reduce fuel within the wildland urban interface using prescribed fire. The area was previously thinned and has a high proportion of ponderosa pine which is a fire adapted/dependent tree species with a more frequent historical fire return interval. Ponderosa pine needles are much more combustible because of their larger size, resin content and arrangement than needles from other tree species like western larch and Douglas-fir. Burning this stand under more moderate spring conditions will reduce the amount of ponderosa pine needles and other fuel available to burn in a wildfire thus making wildfire control efforts easier and the stand of trees more likely to survive a wildland fire.

Oettiker 3 This 96-acre unit is in the vicinity of Star Meadow, approximately 14 air miles west of Whitefish and was previously burned in the spring of 2016. The intent is maintenance burning the area to consume the dead fuel created from the initial 2016 prescribed fire. This area was identified as big game winter range so the prescribed fire will not only reduce fuel loading in the wildland urban interface it will also enhance winter range by increasing the amount of browse to big game for winter forage.

Burnt Grouse 2.0 - This 220-acre unit is in the Good Creek drainage approximately 7 air miles southwest of Olney and was previously burned in the fall of 2014. Depending on weather and fuel conditions crews may burn all or a portion of the unit this spring. In the event we burn a portion of the unit the intent is to reduce concentrations of fuel along the containment lines along the top and eastside. This area is big game winter range with partial funding being provided in partnership by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the prescribed fire will not only reduce fuel loading in the wildland urban interface created from the 2014 prescribed fire it will also enhance winter range by increasing the amount of browse to big game for winter forage.


Hungry Horse-Glacier View Districts

Royal Tiger Units 51/54/54A/55/57- Planning to utilize a combination of hand ignitions and ignitions with an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with a plastic sphere dispenser (PSD) machine to burn 115 acres on steep slopes. The objective is to conduct a low intensity prescribed burn to achieve multiple objectives: (1) Reduce fire hazard (2) Prepare site for regeneration and (3) Create a more diverse mosaic of vegetation conditions.

Coram Pasture - Utilizing hand ignitions to burn Fields 1, 2, and 3 for a total of 17 acres. Coram Pasture is an administrative site used for pasturing agency livestock. Objectives are to improve range by returning fire and the burning of the pastures in the spring will help remove dead residual forage, reduce brush and saplings, and rejuvenate the desirable grass and forage species for greater stock utilization. Burning rotations of field will increase productivity of the site and improve range conditions.

Hungry Horse Ranger Station - Utilizing hand ignitions to burn 4 units that are 3.5 acres. These units are located on the ranger station administrative site. The objective is to remove fuel loadings and reduce risk to compound residences should a fire occur. Introduce fire into Aspen stands to restore and stimulate natural conditions.

Spotted Bear Ranger District

Spotted Bear River Units E/M/N and Silver Mule Units 48/49 - Hand ignition will be utilized to blackline approximately 100 acres of Spotted Bear River units E, M, and N in order create a buffer for burning the rest of these units as well as adjacent units 50, 65, 66 and Silver Mule 48, & 49 in the fall using aerial ignition. The units are located on the South end of Horse Ridge near the Spotted Bear Ranger Station and are being burned to reduce fuel loading, maintain, and increase winter range forage, and reintroduce fire into the ecosystem. The low to moderate intensity prescribed fire is intended to push back the conifer encroachment while retaining key thermal cover timber patches.

For more information about these projects, contact the appropriate Ranger Station:

Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger District: 406-387-3800

Tally Lake Ranger District: 406-758-5204

Swan Lake Ranger District: 406-837-7500

Spotted Bear Ranger District: 406-758-5376

For precise prescribed fire ignition dates and times, follow our Facebook and Twitter profiles at

https://www.facebook.com/discovertheflathead and https://twitter.com/FlatheadNF.  General forest information can be found online at https://www.fs.usda.gov/flathead.

Map of burn areas for spring 2023