Bitterroot Front Project Receives Authorized Emergency Actions
Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The Bitterroot National Forest contains five of the top ‘fire sheds’ across the nation, according to the U.S. Forest Service, meaning the areas with the highest possibility of severe wildfire activity.
On Thursday KGVO News spoke with Steve Brown, District Ranger with the Stevensville Ranger District of the Bitterroot National Forest about the emergency actions just approved this week.
The Bitterroot Front Project has Received Approval for 'Emergency Actions'
“The emergency is the wildfire crisis that we've got across the West identified in the 10-year wildfire crisis strategy by the Washington office,” began Brown. “We’re really taking a look at prioritizing our actions in those areas where we have the highest risk for fires impacting communities.”
Brown expanded on the actions to be taken to mitigate fire danger before the wildfires actually occur.
The Bitterroot National Forest has Five of the top 'Firesheds' in the USA
“The Chief's office has identified 250 areas, they're calling them fire sheds around the country, and the Bitterroot National Forest has five of those top 250 areas that have been identified as an emergency situation,” he said. “We really need to get busy in these areas because it's not a matter of if we'll have a fire and we know that from having lived here, it's a matter of when we're going to have a fire. And if we want to have any chance of success at suppressing that fire or keeping those fires impacts from being catastrophic, then we need to be proactive in the time that we have.”
Brown said the Bitterroot National Forest and the U.S. Forest Service have been looking long-term at the fire danger and are taking it seriously, especially considering the forest itself and the surrounding western Montana communities that are at risk of possible wildfires.
“It really is a long-term look at things,” he said. “The project specifically is the Bitterroot Front Project. It's a project we've been working on in the planning stages for a couple of years now. And that runs basically along the whole Bitterroot face from just south of Lolo all the way down to Conner. Those are the highest risk fire areas, in fact, it's in the top 10 of the state in terms of fire risk to communities.”
Thanks to Careful Planning there will Hopefully be no Delays on the Project
Brown said the Bitterroot National Forest has been working for quite some time in the planning stages to ensure that there will be no unnecessary delays in implementing the Bitterroot Front Project.
“We're going to be releasing a draft environmental assessment in mid-August and that will have all the updated proposed actions and everything including the areas we're proposing and the treatments we're proposing so that folks can really get a good look at what we're doing,” he said. “The emergency authority will give us the ability to plan the project, get it to a final state, but then it also does away with the objections review process, which shortens it by as much as four months in terms of the planning process so that we can get right to work on this.”
There was a ‘robust scoping comment period’ in 2022 where there were over 400 comments submitted on the project and the majority of the comments were positive.