Rice Ridge Fire Salvage Project Environmental Assessment Available for Public Comment

Seeley Lake, Montana Public comment is now being accepted on the Rice Ridge Fire Salvage Environmental Assessment (EA).  A June 27th  meeting will be held to share findings of the recently completed analysis. “Public response, along with the analysis of effects, will inform my decision on how to proceed forward with the project,” said Sara Mayben, acting Forest Supervisor for the Lolo National Forest.  The Forest Service is requesting an Emergency Situation Determination (ESD) pursuant to 36 CFR 218.21 to facilitate timely implementation of the project,.  If an ESD is granted, the decision will not be subject to the pre-decisional objection process.


The EA summarizes the environmental effects of three alternatives including, No Action, Modified Proposed Action (Alternative B) which includes construction of temporary roads, and Alternative C which does not include the construction of temporary roads.  “These options were developed in response to public comment received on the Forest’s initial December 21, 2017 proposal to salvage dead and dying burned trees, remove roadside hazard trees, and plant trees in the Ridge Fire that burned over 160,000 acres last summer near Seeley Lake;” said Tami Paulsen, Interdisciplinary Team Leader for the project.  “The project’s activities are intended to recover economic value to contribute to local employment and income, reduce hazards to human health and safety, and re-establish forested conditions to aid in recovery of the burned area.” 


Environmental Assessments are prepared to determine if a proposed action could have a significant impact on the human environment that would warrant preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement.  According to Rachel Feigley, the Forest Service District Ranger that oversees management of the burned area, the analysis does not indicate a potential for significant impact from any of the three alternatives explored.  From the start, the project was carefully designed to avoid sensitive areas and minimize adverse effects.  “Various criteria and resource protection measures were applied to protect streams, sensitive soils, and wildlife habitat,” said Feigley.  The economic value recovered from salvaging some of the burned timber will help finance hazard tree felling and road maintenance activities necessary to address public safety concerns and resource protections in the burned area.  Much of the fire will not be salvaged and will be left to recover naturally because of economic or environmental constraints.  In the areas that will be managed, timber salvage will contribute to employment and income in local communities.


The public meeting will include a brief presentation followed by an open house.  The meeting will be held on Wednesday June 27th, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Seeley Lake Chamber of Commerce in Seeley Lake, Montana.


For more information, please contact the Seeley Lake Ranger District at (406) 677-2233.  Project information is available on the Lolo National Forest website: http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/lolo/landmanagement/projects.  Updates on the Rice Ridge Fire Salvage Project will also be posted on the Lolo National Forest Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/lolonationalforest/

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