There were 36 fires this past summer and fall in the U.S. Forest Service Northern Region that burned 710,000 acres in national forests in Montana and Idaho at a cost of millions of dollars.

Due to the scope of the fires, a Regional Post-Fire Management Team has been formed. Incident Coordinator Mike Elsen has begun the Burned Area Emergency Response in planning post-fire salvage and reforestation.

“That program is a very rapid assessment of where the most critical needs are for our rapid response,” Elsen began. “We’re looking for hazardous trees around public recreation areas, places where noxious weeds could spring up and other assessments from the large fires where response is needed.”

Elsen said another aspect of the response is planning for any salvage logging.

“We’ve identified 11 fires where we feel that it would be beneficial to harvest some of the dead trees,” he said. “We’ve been using the latest technology to zero in on the areas where that would be most appropriate. These are areas that would not be environmentally sensitive, and areas that have the necessary access and volume to be economically feasible.”

Elsen said the third assessment would deal with reforestation of the burned areas.

“Out of the 700,000-plus acres, we’re determining where we need to do some planting to help in regenerating these forests,” he said. “Our area of interest is all of Montana and northern Idaho. The fires we’re dealing with include the Caribou, Cub Creek, Rice Ridge, Sheep Gap, Sunrise, West Fork, Moose Peak, Gibraltar Ridge, Myers and Little Hogback fires.”

Three of the fires are proposing to salvage 250 acres or less.  Environmental analysis will determine the final acreage available for salvage for the remaining eight fires.

The Forest Service has contacted environmental groups and representatives of the timber industry and asked for their input and cooperation in the project.

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