Lolo National Forest’s “Wildfire Adapted Missoula” Project

The Lolo National Forest is working on the “Wildfire Adapted Missoula” project, “a risk-based strategic fuels management project. It proposes mechanized and non-mechanized fuel and vegetation treatments to reduce wildfire hazard and associated risk in strategic locations.”

Location Summary: Project surrounds the communities of Missoula, Lolo, East Missoula, Bonner, Clinton, and Turah (approx. 158,725 acres of National Forest System (NFS) lands).

Scoping documents are here.

IMHO, many areas in the west would benefit from risk-based strategic fuels management projects like this.With limited funding and staff, setting priorities is a must.

Excerpts from an article from the Missoula Current:

Compared to towns in California and Oregon, Missoula was lucky this summer not having any serious nearby wildfires. But with a warming climate, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when,” so the Lolo National Forest is proposing a large treatment project on the suburban forest to reduce wildfire risk in the Five Valleys region.

On Wednesday morning, on the upper part of the Blue Mountain Recreational Area, U.S. Forest Service silviculturist Sheryl Gunn walked along a dirt road pointing up at all the mistletoe infestations in the Douglas fir that grows thicker in the upper sections of forest.

“Where would wildfire hazard be high? It would be high in a place like this,” Gunn said. “We have this forested condition all around Missoula. This forested condition is what we saw in the Lolo Fire. When a fire gets into the crowns of this, nothing really survives. And so we see very, very, very intense fire.”

But not all the national forest land will be treated. That would take a lot of time and money. More importantly, it’s more effective to focus on areas of high risk. No point treating a fairly wet or previously burned area farther away from Missoula when there’s a heavily wooded spot right next to town.

6 thoughts on “Lolo National Forest’s “Wildfire Adapted Missoula” Project”

  1. Worth repeating: “No point treating a fairly wet or previously burned area farther away from Missoula when there’s a heavily wooded spot right next to town.” (Or even a “wooded spot” farther away from Missoula if there’s one right next to town.) Target the “suburban forest” first (and Missoula has plenty of that to keep them busy for awhile).

    • Jon, I think that that might be a straw person. I’ve never seen a fuel treatment in a previously burned area or a “fairly wet” area, as they tend to be natural fuel breaks.
      Another thought… perhaps Missoula is not the only inhabited community within the boundaries of the Lolo?

      • There are lots of habitations around the Lolo. But if you are prioritizing (and the wildland fuels are the same), wouldn’t you want to invest in places that would protect the most values at risk for the buck (i.e. the densest habitations)?

        • Well.. that reminds me of our dear friends the economists and how based on values at risk you would protect the million dollar second homes over the trailers of the permanent residents. It would be interesting to listen in on a collaborative group talking about “values at risk”.
          Perhaps that’s why the maligned (and now possibly burned up) LAVA project worked with the public to prioritize projects.

          • Yes, it would be interesting to have a discussion of “values at risk” – during the forest planning process, so the forest plan takes steps to address those in accordance with their priority.

            (I did not suggest priority should be based on economic value but on “densest habitations.”)


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