Forest Watch

Forestry and Wilderness

We have led Lincoln County’s community of forest stakeholders to consensus for forest management that supports both human and animal communities. For endangered species, we campaign for the protection of wildlife corridors and wilderness, while for humans we aim for fire-resistant communities, the peaceful co-existence of humans and wildlife and places for motorized and non-motorized recreation – not just in the Yaak but across Kootenai National Forest.

In addition to working for wilderness protection within the Kootenai’s special wild places, we have brought over a million dollars into Lincoln County through forest restoration projects that employ local contractors, and created restoration plans to ensure this work will continue.

 

Working with the Stakeholders

The Forest Watch Coordinator plays an active role in a community where the land and its people are inseparable. Working in the forest and in the community, our Coordinator develops working relationships with partners and assumes leadership responsibilities for the Three Rivers District Team as a part of the Kootenai Forest Stakeholder Coalition. 
www.kootenaifuture.org

Our current wilderness and recreation designations protect certain wild, roadless areas in the Yaak that are secure refuge for local wildlife. Wilderness designation in these areas is supported by the Kootenai Stakeholders, whose shared goals were brought about by years of collaborative effort and show that on the 2.2 million acres that comprise the Kootenai National Forest, there is space for all values.

 
 

Summer Hikes

Each year, the Yaak Valley Forest Council hosts summer hikes that are free and open to the public. These hikes bring together a diverse group of participants to experience the Yaak Valley’s wild country we’re working to protect, as well as a chance to learn more about native plants and animals from locals who have an intimate knowledge of the landscape.

For more information about management or recreation activities on the Kootenai National Forest and how to get involved, contact Jessie Grossman – jessie@yaakvalley.org.
Stay tuned for more information about summer hikes.

 
Photo by Anthony South

Monitoring

Our Forest Watch team are the eyes, ears, and voice for conservation on the ground. We follow the U.S. Forest Service’s National Environment Policy Act [NEPA] steps on each project, from scoping through to environmental analysis and the draft record of decision, making input where the community indicates concern.

Our years of experience of pre and post harvest monitoring and commitment to follow through on long term monitoring of projects inform further work, such as the creation of Coalition For Recovery, a local group whose goal is to create positive messaging and provide education and outreach opportunities for grizzly bear recovery in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem.

The goal of our monitoring program is to bring about forest management that create conditions that sustain the health of our watersheds, wildlife, local communities, and local economies – in the present and future.

 

Projects Monitored

Projects Photos

This project encompasses the Callahan drainage, nearly 50,000 acres of roadless lands, and other lands due west of Troy.

The district is exploring the possibility of using the Farm Bill authorities for this project, which has requirements for collaborative participation and allows a streamlined National Environment Policy Act [NEPA] process, meaning the district may consider only one or two alternatives in making their decision. For this reason, early input is critical.

Yaak Valley Forest Council has submitted prescoping comments for this project. More opportunity for public comment is expected in Fall 2016.

The project area runs south of Seventeen Mile creek all the way to Kootenai Face above Kootenai falls. It includes the Alvord Lake community forest; grizzly bear, lynx, and big horn sheep habitat; old growth; and the Saddle Mountain roadless area. Yaak Valley Forest Council expressed concerns about regeneration harvest, soil compaction, weeds, and wildlife in the project area. The final environmental impact statement and draft record of decision were released Spring 2016. Decision expected Autumn 2016.

The Kootenai Stakeholders are currently working to incorporate our values into this project and determine our level of support.

For more information on this project, go to: http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=45254

The Buckhorn Project is complete and sold in September 2014 to Idaho Forest Group. Unfortunately, the coalition could not find consensus on this project. Our Forest Watch Coordinator successfully advocated for wildlife screening and leave islands within the harvest units slated for regeneration cuts.

The project area for Buckhorn encompasses nearly 56,000 acres and includes some of the Yaak’s most iconic features including Rock Candy Mountain and Buckhorn Ridge. The Forest Service has about 1,200 acres scheduled for timber harvest and 12,000 acres planned for prescribed burning in this project.

The area contains critical habitat for grizzly bears and big game. Some of the proposed treatment by the agency is intended to enhance huckleberry production for bears and forage for big game. Pre-harvest monitoring on this project is complete and we will begin post-harvest monitoring next summer after logging begins.

Click here for the Buckhorn Final ROD

This is a fuels reduction project located in the heart of the valley and will follow the guidelines laid out in the Healthy Forest Restoration Act. This is a project that is very near and dear to many locals due to its proximity to private lands in the valley. The Kootenai Stakeholder’s support this project, and their Three Rivers District Team has worked hard to reach common ground, participating in several field trips to the unit with Forest Service employees.

The Forest Service was receptive to the concerns from the local community and the Environmental Assessment for the project incorporates many of these concerns.

Click here to read the Decision Notice and Finding Of No Significant Impact (FONSI)

This is a large project area (about 94,000 acres) that is located along the eastern side of Koocanusa Reservoir. The Yaak Valley Forest Council participated in the Kootenai Stakeholder team that collaborated on the project. The draft impact statement was released in summer 2013. Yaak Valley Forest Council submitted detailed comments on this project and continued to work with the agency independently and through the Kootenai Stakeholder’s to ensure the project met the concerns of everyone at the table. The project is now complete and the parties were able to reach consensus and give the project full support for the final decision. Work will begin for this project this fall.

Click here to read the East Reservoir FEIS

This project is located south of Troy, in the Lake Creek Watershed, encompassing both the Lake and Spar subunits bordering Highway 56. The project area is approximately 135,000 acres and is a popular location for recreation, including boating, fishing, huckleberry picking, hunting, and hiking. The Forest Service released the Impact Statement for this project in early summer 2012. Implementation of this project began during the autumn of 2013. The Community Forest Watch Coordinator completed post-harvest monitoring in this project area in 2015.

Click here to read FS documents for the Sparring Bulls project.

The Grizzly Management project area is approximately 44,400 acres and is bordered on the west and north by the Yaak River, south by Roderick Mountain and east by the Sheepherder-Roderick Butte ridge.

Our focus concerning this project since first initiated in 2006 has been on how management activities will impact the population of grizzly bears that use the area. Some of the concerns we had during the development of the project included proposed regeneration harvest adjacent to the Roderick Mountain Roadless Area, disturbance to bears caused by activities including road decommissioning of old roads that are currently impassable as well as the use of helicopters, and maintaining wildlife movement corridors in the project area.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the project was released in April 2009. Based on our input the FEIS was adjusted to reflect some of our concerns. Changes included less harvest along Burnt Dutch Road #472, elimination of helicopter units adjacent to the Roderick IRA, and more winter harvest while bears are denning. While we were pleased to see these adjustments we still have some concerns, including harvest in a wildlife movement corridor at the summit of the Burnt Dutch Road.

Logging went ahead in 2014, and timber harvest activities and associated post-harvest monitoring are occurring presently.

Click here for the ROD and associated documents for the Grizzly project.

Flower creek is a forested area and watershed where the city of Libby gets its water supply. This project will address forest and watershed health and the goal is to keep Libby’s water supply resilient to wildfire. The Kootenai Stakeholders have been invited to help develop an alternative to be analyzed in the National Environment Policy Act [NEPA] process. The Yaak Valley Forest Council worked on this project in 2009, and are picking up where we left off. Our concerns are related to creating species and structural diversity within the forest while protecting this sensitive area from wildfire.
This project is a Forest wide Environmental Impact Statement to address commercial and precommercial thinning of previously harvested stands, and burning of activity fuels only within previously managed, second growth stands across the Forest. Kootenai Stakeholders submitted comments, draft impact statement expected Summer 2016. Our comments expressed a desire to maintain a healthy forest and supporting thinning operations where appropriate while sustaining forest health and diversity across the landscape.