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Firefighters work the Liberty Fire in early August.

Firefighters work the Liberty Fire in early August.

Plans to log and replant some of the hillsides burned in the Liberty fire west of Placid Lake have been released for public comment.

The Liberty fire got less attention than the Rice Ridge fire across the valley, although it burned almost 29,000 acres. More than 12,000 acres were in the Flathead Indian Reservation, while 9,452 acres of Forest Service land and 6,859 acres of private land also burned.

Rice Ridge burned nearly 160,000 acres in the Swan Range east of Seeley Lake. Considerations are still underway on what areas might qualify for salvage logging or restoration work in that fire zone.

The fire left a wide variety of scars, from ground fires that left tree crowns unburned to severe scorchings that consumed all trees and plants. The project will take place on hillsides just east of Boles Meadow.

The logging would take place on about 250 acres. Most cutting areas would be limited to 40 acres or smaller. However, natural burn areas larger than 40 acres could be included.

Work would start in late summer. Logging could last up to two years, while tree-planting might continue for 10 years or more depending on funding. About half a mile of temporary road would be needed, while the rest of the area can use existing forest roads. That temporary road would be decommissioned after the harvesting is complete.

The planting effort could cover about 6,600 acres inside the fire perimeter, including the areas picked for salvage logging. A mix of western larch, ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, Douglas fir and whitebark pine seedlings would be planted.

Comments on the project should be delivered by Wednesday, April 4. Address them to Tami Paulsen, Team Leader, 24 Fort Missoula Road, Missoula, Montana 59804, or fax them to 406-329-1049. Electronic comments can be sent to comments-northern-lolo-seeley-lake@fs.fed.us. Commenters should include a name and address to receive future notices and advisories about the project.

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Natural Resources & Environment Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter for The Missoulian.