LIBBY — During the 2017 fire season, multiple wildfires burned more than 80,000 acres on the Kootenai National Forest, affecting approximately 3.6 percent of the forest's land base.

The West Fork fire was ignited by lightening on Aug. 30, seven miles northwest of Libby on the Forest's Libby Ranger District. The fire was contained on Oct. 1, affecting approximately 21,800 acres (about 17,700 acres of national forest lands and 4,100 acres of private land). Approximately 32 percent of the area within the fire perimeter burned at moderate and high soil burn severities.

The purpose of the West Fork Fire Salvage and Restoration Project is to remove hazard trees affecting public health and safety along travel routes and other areas considered for salvage, restore portions of the landscape burned by the wildfire by initiating reforestation, reduce watershed impacts resulting from roads and unauthorized routes, and recover forest economic value and benefits through salvage, generating revenues to support the accomplishment of project objectives.

The scoping letter for the West Fork Salvage and Restoration Project was released Dec. 19. Comments would be most useful by Jan. 18. The district will be conducting an analysis of potential environmental effects in the coming months, and all comments received will be considered. An open house will be held Thursday, Jan. 4, at the Kootenai National Forest Supervisors Office in Libby from 6 to 8 p.m. and project team members will be on hand to provide information and answer questions regarding the proposed project.

The draft Environmental Assessment (EA) is scheduled to be released in early May in which another 30 day comment period will occur. The Libby Ranger District welcomes all input into the development of this project during the formal comment periods, at the open house, or in person.

Maps and materials are also available on online at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=53014. For more information about this project, contact Project Team Leader Katie Van Alstyne at 406-303-0269, or Libby District Ranger Nate Gassman at 406-293-7598.

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