Laura Lundquist

(Missoula Current) The Forest Service is proposing a logging and prescribed-burn project under emergency authorization near the mouth of Rock Creek.

On Monday, the Lolo National Forest released its proposal for the Tyler’s Kitchen Fuels Reduction and Forest Health Project covering 33,400 acres southeast of the confluence of Rock Creek and the Clark Fork River. The Lolo Forest has set a 31-day scoping period for people to comment on the variety of activities from clearcuts to prescribed burning proposed in the area. Comments are due by by July 31.

Throughout the steep terrain, the project includes slightly more than 6,000 acres of commercial timber harvest, more than a third of which are to be basically clearcut, 2,700 acres of noncommercial thinning and prescribed burns across 7,500 acres.

Seven project units include clearcuts - what the Forest Service calls “regeneration harvest” - that cover more than 40 acres. The largest is almost 280 acres while others are closer to 90 acres. If clearcuts are to exceed 40 acres, the Forest Service requires both a 60-day public review, which started July 1, and Regional Forester approval.

Over the past decade, the Forest Service has acquired private industrial lands in the project area, 3000 acres of which would be treated using non-commercial thinning, weed treatments, and ponderosa pine planting. These lands were once heavily harvested for revenue. Most of the trees are Douglas-fir in poor condition, with very few ponderosa pine left.

The southern 18% of the project area covers part of the Silver King Inventoried Roadless Area, even though timber harvest is prohibited in Inventoried Roadless Areas. But the Lolo National Forest is considering exceptions to this restriction that are allowed provided the management activity meets specific conditions and approval is granted. Road maintenance is being proposed.

A map of the proposed project.
A map of the proposed project.

Regeneration harvest or clearcuts are planned for three of the 26 roadless area units southeast of Tyler Creek. No road construction or reconstruction is proposed within the inventory roadless area, but the crews will use and maintain 5 miles of existing road to access the clearcut and other treated units.

The Lolo Forest said in a release that it had chosen the project area because it’s within one of 250 high-risk firesheds that the Forest Service identified a few years ago under the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy initiated by the Biden administration.

In 2023, the Secretary of Agriculture invoked the emergency authority allowed under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to grant approval for Forest Service projects in the 250 firesheds. Under that authority, the Secretary has approved the Tyler’s Kitchen project as an Emergency Action Determination project, which means it will go through a reduced public process. After scoping, the Lolo Forest will draft an environmental assessment and a final decision is anticipated in June 2025.

The Missoula Ranger District will host a project open house on July 15 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Clinton Rural Fire District at 20300 US Hwy 10 East in Clinton. All comments submitted at the meeting will be part of the record.

Comments may also be sent electronically by going to the project website and clicking the “Comment/Object on Project” button. To mail comments, send them to: ATTN: Tyler’s Kitchen Project Leader, Missoula Ranger District, 24 Fort Missoula Road, Missoula, MT 59804.