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Draft Decision for Center Horse Project Released

 


SEELEY LAKE - The Lolo National Forest has completed the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Draft Record of Decision (DROD) for the Center Horse Landscape Restoration project. While the analysis for the document is complete, the decision remains a draft until the final step in the process – a 45-day objection period – is complete.

The 61,000 acre Center Horse Project area is on the Seeley Lake Ranger District. It is about 14 miles north of Ovando and includes the North Fork Cottonwood and Spring Creek drainages on the west and the McCabe Creek drainage on the east.

The project includes: vegetation management (e.g., commercial harvest, non-commercial tree cutting, prescribed burning and weed treatments); road treatments (e.g., decommissioning, storage, maintenance and re-routing segments away from sensitive riparian areas); watershed improvements (e.g., culvert replacements and removals); and soil restoration activities (e.g., weed treatments, landing and skid trail rehabilitation and shrub and tree planting).

The FEIS summarizes the analysis of three alternatives to: 1) improve/restore forest composition, spatial arrangement and structure, 2) restore fire adapted ecosystems, 3) improve water quality, restore or enhance fish and wildlife habitat, and conserve and improve soil resources, 4) right size the existing transportation network to meet public and administrative needs while at the same time eliminating unneeded roads and trails.

The Selected Action was Alternative B - Modified.

“I believe the Selected Action provides the best balance of management activities to respond to the purpose and need, while also being responsive to issues and public/agency input identified through the analysis. I have adopted all practical means to avoid or minimize environmental harm from the Selected Action,” wrote Lolo National Forest Supervisor Tim Garcia in the Draft Record of Decision (DROD).

Modifications Garcia made to Alternative B included: 1) dropping five units (Units 106, 108, a portion of 143, 150 and 151 – total 200 acres); 2) changing the treatment prescription for Unit 187 from Improvement Cut and Prescribed Fire to Prescribed Fire only; 3) adding additional Resource Protection Measures (RPMs); and 4) dropping two miles of short-term specified temporary road construction.

The FEIS and DROD are available on the Lolo National Forest website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/lolo.

There will be a 45-day objection period on this Draft Decision, which is anticipated to end June 5, 2017. Information about the objection process can be found at the website listed above.

This work would likely be implemented in phases over a five- to 10-year period which is anticipated to begin in 2018. The Center Horse project area is part of the Southwest Crown Collaborative (SWCC). In 2010, the SWCC was one of ten national collaboratives awarded funding through the new Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). The purpose of the CFLRP is to encourage the collaborative, science-based ecosystem restoration of priority forest landscapes.

More information about this project can be found on the website or contact Tami Paulsen, Project Leader, at 406-329-3731.

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