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Fuels reduction proposed for 2,563 acres near Libby

| February 15, 2007 11:00 PM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

A 2,563-acre fuels reduction project is proposed for the Kootenai National Forest in the Libby area of Kootenai River, Quartz Creek, Pipe Creek and Bobtail Creek roads.

The U.S. Forest Service will host a public meeting on the Kootenai River North Fuels Reduction project at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, at the forest supervisor's office on Highway 2 West in Libby.

The project is being done to make it more defensible when wildfires occur, said Libby District Ranger Malcolm Edwards.

"As many of you know, the western U.S. has been experiencing unusually high fire activity since 2000," Edwards said in a letter mailed to nearby property owners. "This has resulted in millions of acres burned, countless dollars spent on fire suppression and hundreds of homes lost to wildfires."

Projects like this also are done for forest restoration. Forests have adapted for thousands of years with fire as a natural disturbance process. The harvest will include removing 15 to 35 percent of the overstory canopy, retaining the large diameter, fire resistant trees, Edwards said.

The treatment area will be within a half-mile of private land. Within the area, timber will be removed from 1,994 acres; the remaining area will receive mechanical treatments including slashing and chipping.

The project will be put out for bid.

"Under the stewardship, we have a little leeway of who we award the contract to," Edwards said. "We will be using a process called 'best value.' It's not the lowest or the highest bidder, but what services they may offer in exchange for the value of the timber."

It could include, for example, thinning, replacing culverts, building recreational facilities, road maintenance or wildlife improvements.

The Libby Ranger District has been working with the Kootenai Stakeholders Group to formulate the project. The stakeholders group represents the timber industry, environmentalists, recreation groups, educators, fire management personnel, the public and non-government entities.