Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Forest Service seeks comment on Cedar Creek project

The Western News | January 24, 2023 7:00 AM

In its ongoing effort to reduce the risk of wild fire in the wildland urban interface in the Libby area, U.S. Forest officials are seeking comment on a proposed harvest project in the Cedar Creek area.

According to a news release from the Libby Ranger District of the Kootenai National Forest, it is seeking comments on the Norman McCedar Project, proposed on National Forest System lands about one mile southwest of Libby.

The need for the proposal is to reduce fuel loadings within the Libby fireshed and wildland urban interface to result in less intense fire behavior near communities and improve access for safer wildland fire operations.

According to Matt Bienkowski, the operations supervisor for the Libby Ranger District, there are nearly 1,000 structures within 1.5 miles of the project area and nearly 3,000 within three miles.

Bienkowski did a GIS analysis using Lincoln County Structure Data (pulled from their GIS database web) for the figures provided below.

Within one-half mile, there are 179 structures, 413 within one mile, 939 within 1.5 miles and 2,980 within three miles.

Bienkowski pointed out that there is also a major Bonneville Power Authority transmission line and BNSF rail line within 0.25 miles of the project area.

Forest officials also say the project will improve the diversity and resilience of vegetative communities as well as contribute to continued timber production and economic sustainability.

According to information in the press release, there will be about 2,577 acres of commercial treatments and 1,054 acres of noncommercial treatments in the plan.

In order to implement these treatments, about seven miles of system road would be constructed and closed yearlong while three miles of temporary roads would be built and rehabilitated following harvest activities.

Matt Bienkowski, the operations supervisor for the Libby Ranger District, said the temporary roads would be re-contoured and planted with native vegetation. He said temporary roads would be extensions of roads that are already gated or that have barriers in place.

In addition, about 10 miles of seasonally closed roads would have a change of dates to better align with other seasonal closures in the area to improve public access and improve closure efficiency.

Bienkowski said the proposed road closures, for NF 402 and NF 4727, would not begin until Oct. 14.

The Forest Service doesn’t anticipate work on the ground beginning in 2023.

“Currently we are targeting on or around Aug. 15 for a decision with a contract being advertised late in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2023 or the first quarter of fiscal year 2024,” Bienkowski said.

Written, facsimile, hand-delivered, oral and electronic comments concerning this action will be accepted for 30 calendar days following the publication of the legal notice in the Missoulian, the newspaper of record, on or about Jan. 18, 2023.

Electronic comments must be submitted in a format such as an email message, plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), Adobe (.pdf), or Word (.doc or .docx) to comments-northern-kootenai@usda.gov.

Please include “Norman McCedar Project” in the subject line.

Hand deliver or mail hardcopy comments to the Kootenai National Forest Supervisor’s Office, Attn: Matt Bienkowski, 31374 US Highway 2, Libby, MT 59923.

The office business hours for submitting hand-delivered comments are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Faxed comments can be sent to 406-283-7709.