Weather conditions permitting, fire managers plan to begin prescribed fire operations immediately and through the fall in the Barnard Junction, Moose Kelly, Weitas, and other project areas across the forest. Many of the planned areas have remained relatively untouched by fire for almost a century.
Applying fire in a controlled manner will allow for low to moderate fire behavior and reduce the risk of future catastrophic wildfires. Benefits to the project areas are high and include improving overall forest health, reducing stand densities, and improving wildlife habitat, especially forage for declining elk herds and other wildlife. In addition to landscape treatments, additional prescribed fire treatments will be applied to reduce fuels following timber harvest and site preparation for timber regeneration.
Implementation has been scheduled to take advantage of limited opportunities to apply prescribed fire treatments, as some areas receive 30 to 60 inches of rain annually. Not every acre will burn, but areas treated will benefit from the increased vegetative diversity created by the managed fire.
Residents of Missoula and the Bitterroot Valley are likely to see smoke from the prescribed fire on the North Fork and Lochsa Ranger Districts. Prescribed fire produces smoke, but the smoke is typically visible for a short duration, 3-4 days, and managed to minimize impacts to communities. Prescribed fire and other fuels treatments help to reduce the severity of wildfires and minimize long-term adverse smoke impacts on public health and safety.
Planned treatment areas on the North Fork and Lochsa Ranger Districts are located within remote, roadless areas or areas with very limited road access.
There are no closures associated with burning activities, but roads and trails impacted will be signed. Visitors to these areas should expect to see smoke and increased fire traffic. All forest activity closure information can be found on the forest website at http://bit.ly/2HMxNam_Alerts_and_Notices
Acres planned are a total of all acres that will see positive impacts as a result of implementing the prescribed fire. Not every acre will burn or be ignited. The planned prescribed fires by location are as follows: