Friday, March 6, 2015

Flathead National Forest Releases Proposed Action for the Revision of the Forest Plan and Amendments for Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy

The Flathead National Forest is releasing for public comment the proposed action for the revision of the land and resource management plan (forest plan) as directed by the National Forest Management Act. The proposed action for the revised forest plan includes management direction to support a variety of proposed and possible actions that may occur on the plan area over the next 15 years or so, or during the life of the plan. Acting Forest Supervisor Sharon LaBrecque commented that “the proposed action reflects the overall theme of the 2012 planning rule by its integration of ecological, social, and economic sustainability as equally important components formanagement of NFS lands.”

The Flathead National Forest is also concurrently releasing an amendment to integrate the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy (“strategy”) into the forest plans for the Helena, Kootenai, Lewis and Clark, and Lolo National Forests. The Flathead National Forest is incorporating the relevant portions of the strategy as part of its plan revision process. The proposed amendment provides grizzly bear habitat-related management direction within the portions of each forest that lie within the NCDE. This is a prerequisite for eventual delisting of the NCDE grizzly bear population under the Endangered Species Act. The Forest Service will prepare a single environmental impact statement (EIS) for its revised forest plan and the amendments.

A series of seven public meetings across the region will be conducted to address answers and provide additional information.

Some of the proposed actions in the plan include:

* Emphasizing front country recreation opportunities by identifying areas around Lakeside, Bigfork, and Whitefish for additional recreation opportunities.

* Recommends 188,000 acres for inclusion into the National Wilderness Preservation System including the Jewel Basin and the Tuchuck-Whale areas as well as additions to Mission Mountain, Bob Marshall, and Great Bear Wilderness areas.

* Identifies 22 rivers as eligible for inclusion into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

* The Flathead NF, in consultation with MTFWP and other experts, screened a lengthy list of species, and developed a list of 9 potential wildlife Species of Conservation Concern (SCCs), 2 potential aquatic SCCs, and 13 potential botanical SCCs. The Regional Forester will make a decision on which species are carried forward as final SCC.

* Ensures that habitat protections specific to the grizzly bear are consistent on key National Forest System lands within the Northern Continental Divide Grizzly Bear Ecosystem (NCDE), by incorporating the relevant habitat management direction from the grizzly bear conservation strategy.

The Flathead National Forest plan revision website provides the full proposed action text for the revision, describing preliminary desired conditions, objectives, standards, guidelines, and other plan content; the 2014 Assessment; summaries of the public meetings and public meeting materials, and public comments. The revision component of the proposed action is located here. The amendment component of the proposed action can be found here. Links to the 2012 planning rule and the draft NCDE Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy can be found on these websites as well.


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