Forest officials ready to proceed with South Yaak Fire salvage
The South Yaak Fire burned in a mosaic pattern on more than 12,000 acres on private and the Kootenai National Forest. (Scott Shindledecker/The Western News)
The fire did its damage, now it’s time to clean up the mess.
The Kootenai National Forest has issued its notice and finding of no significant impact for the South Yaak Fire Salvage Project.
The South Yaak Fire was detected on July 13, 2021, on the Three Rivers Ranger District. It burned 12,489 acres on private and National Forest land north of Troy.
According to the notice from Kootenai National Forest Supervisor Chad Benson, the fire left a mosaic of burn patterns across the land that range from unburned islands to areas where tree crowns and ground vegetation were completely burned.
The burn included lands where harvests and non-harvest fuels treatments had occurred in the Lower Yaak, O’Brien, Sheep Project.
One of the main goals for the salvage project are to maximize the value of wood from dead and dying trees while retaining the amount needed for wildlife habitat, soil productivity and ecosystem management, according to the proposal.
Also, the salvage units are in areas where enough salable timber exists to provide a sale that is economically viable.
The other main goal is to remove several fire-killed trees near National Forest and Lincoln County roads.
“If left standing, these trees pose a risk to people working and recreating in the area, as well as access to private property,” Benson wrote.
Benson wrote that there are about three miles of road open to public motorized travel that are at higher risk because of fire-weakened trees and falling snags that will fall because of their condition.
“Although some hazard trees have been felled along open roads, without a more substantial effort to address high-risk trees, these hazards will continue to (hinder) safe access for private landowners, recreators and management activities,” Benson wrote.
He also wrote that as fire-killed trees fall down it will increase fuel loads and dead standing trees will increase the risk to wildland firefighters in future fires.
According to the 2015 KNF Forest Plan, the goal is to increase western white pine, ponderosa pine, western larch and whitebark pine and the current makeup of the area deviates from the desired condition.
Because the South Yaak Fire caused high levels of tree mortality, little to no seed source remains for natural regeneration in high burn areas. Those areas need treatment to prepare them for tree planting
The proposal calls for about 551 acres of tractor salvage logging, three miles of commercial roadside hazard tree removal and one-half mile of temporary road. Salvage work with reforestation efforts will include about 585 acres while reforestation without salvage will encompass 300 to 350 acres.
The timber volume would be about 6.5 million board feet.
In terms of the project’s impacts on grizzly bears, harvest in Units 2-7 and road work in the Kilbrennan Ridge area will not occur from April 1-30 to minimize activity in low elevation, spring bear habitat.
A copy of the Decision Notice (DN) is located on the web at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=60990.
For more information, please contact Three Rivers Ranger District at 406-295-4693.