U.S. CONGRESS — The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) once again responded to Senator Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte’s request to expedite salvage projects, announcing that they will sign the Rice Ridge Fire Salvage Project located near Seeley Lake on the Lolo National Forest in Missoula and Powell Counties. Under the approved Emergency Situation Determination (ESD), the Lolo National Forest is able to expedite timber sales for the Rice Ridge project during the fall of 2018. The project will occur on approximately 3,494 acres and will salvage 26 million board feet of timber.
“The Rice Ridge Fire burned more than 160,000 acres, threatened structures and filled the community of Seeley Lake with smoke pollution for weeks,” Daines said. “This critical project will restore areas on the Seeley Ranger District impacted by the while enhancing public safety, reducing the risk of future wildfire, and supporting good-paying Montana timber jobs.”
“I appreciate the U.S. Forest Service’s responsiveness and its use of common sense management tools. Its swift action will allow us to limit the damage from the Rice Ridge Fire, which consumed more than 160,000 acres,” Gianforte said. “This needed project will help restore the natural habitat, support Montana timber workers, boost the local economy, and reduce the risk of another wildfire.”
Daines and Gianforte have a strong record of fighting to increase the restoration of Montana’s national forests impacted by the 2017 wildfire season. In May, Daines sent a letter to Forest Service Interim Chief Vicki Christiansen, requesting immediate action on the National Forest System lands in Montana impacted by the 2017 wildfires.
In August, Daines announced that the Forest Service had responded to his demand to expedite salvage projects and that 116 million board feet of burned timber on 14,868 acres had been made available for expedited salvage in Montana.
Daines recently filed an amendment during consideration of the Farm Bill in the U.S. Senate to further encourage the USFS to carry out salvage and other urgent actions using ESDs in response to fires and other emergencies in Montana’s national forests. Gianforte secured an amendment in the House-passed Farm Bill to allow for large-scale expedited salvage operations that requires reforestation of at least 75 percent of the burned area.
- The Rice Ridge Fire was ignited by lightning on July 24, 2017 affecting approximately 160,000 acres. Of this, about 159,430 acres was National Forest System (NFS) land (106,487 acres on the Lolo NF and 52,944 acres on the Flathead NF), 58 acres of State land, and 513 acres of private land.
- About 38% of the Rice Ridge Fire burned within areas allocated to timber production in the Forest Plan.
- The project is located within Missoula and Powell Counties on the Seeley Lake Ranger District.
- The project will occur on approximately 3,494 acres and will salvage 26 million board feet, remove hazard trees along 25 miles of road, and reforest up to approximately 16,526 acres.
- Harvesting burned material provides jobs associated with logging and milling and contribute to the supply of timber from NFS land, which makes up about 60 percent of the forest land in Montana.