Public comment sought on Thompson Chain of Lakes plan

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Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) wants public input for a proposed environmental management project for the Thompson Chain of Lakes area.

The targeted area encompasses more than 3,000 acres and includes Logan State Park. Officials are focusing on removing conifers and trees that pose a hazard to the public or campground facilities.

FWP says the project will reduce hazardous fire fuels, improve wildlife habitat and potentially generate income for the state agency.

“Much of the Thompson Chain of Lakes is former private timber land that has seen extensive timber management and harvest in the past several decades,” FWP officials said in a statement.

The Thompson chain stretches about 15 miles westbound along U.S. Highway 2 and includes 18 lakes, 128 designated campsites and seven dispersed boat launches. FWP estimates that the area saw upwards of 122,000 visitors in 2018.

If approved by the parks and recreation board, FWP plans to log and haul trees to local timber mills. Specific facilities and logging contractors will be determined once the project is approved. Any profit from timber sales will go into the FWP forest management account.

Officials are accepting public comments on the plan until Nov. 9. FWP released an environmental assessment on Aug. 30.

If the project is approved, the forestry work will begin before the year’s end.

In an effort to minimize the effect on visitors, the operating period for the proposed forest management project is expected to wrap up by April 15, 2020. Officials may extend the project through fall 2022.

Logging in winter, when the ground is frozen and snow-covered, will minimize damage to soil and vegetation, according to state officials.

The state agency is putting $14,000 toward the project. The remainder of the cost will be paid through the FWP Forest Management Account, grant funding and the parks division’s operations and maintenance accounts.

FWP has managed the Thompson Chain of Lakes since the 1990s and overseen several similar projects. Officials estimate the agency has conducted some type of forest management action on over 25 percent of the total 3,000 acres that makes up the Thompson Chain of Lakes.

A full copy of the environmental assessment is available under the “public comments and notice” section of stateparks.mt.gov. Those interested can make their opinions known via FWP’s website or emailing dbennetts@mt.gov.

Handwritten comments can be sent to FWP Region One, attn: Thompson Chain of Lakes Forest Management Project – Parks Division, 1409 North Meridian Road, Kalispell, MT 59901.

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