USFS seeks comment on Starry Goat Project
November 15, 2016
The U.S. Forest Service will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to disclose the environmental effects of commercial and non-commercial vegetation management activities, prescribed burning, watershed and recreation improvement activitiesThe U.S. Forest Service will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to disclose the environmental effects of commercial and non-commercial vegetation management activities, prescribed burning, watershed and recreation improvement activities on the Starry Goat Project in Boundary and Lincoln Counties.

Access management changes and other design features are included to protect resources and facilitate management activities.

The Starry Goat project area is immediately west of Troy, Montana, and runs from the Kootenai River west to the boundary between the Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle National Forests. The project area encompasses approximately 90,776 acres (48,471 acres in Montana; 42,305 acres in Idaho, all administered by the Kootenai National Forest). Callahan Creek, Brush Creek, Ruby Creek, and Star Creek are the major drainages in the project area; all flowing into the Kootenai River at the project area boundary.

The purpose and need for this project is to: (1) Promote resilient vegetation conditions by managing towards the 2015 Forest Plan desired conditions for landscape-level vegetation patterns, structure, patch size, fuel loading, and species composition; (2) maintain or improve hydrologic connectivity, water quality and native aquatic species habitat; (3) improve big game winter range conditions and promote forage opportunities while maintaining secure habitat for wildlife; (4) provide a variety of wood products to the American public, and contribute to the local economy by generating jobs and income; (5) maintain and improve the recreation opportunities in the project area; (6) reduce the potential for high intensity wildfire while promoting desirable fire behavior characteristics and fuel conditions.

The proposed action includes timber harvest and associated fuels treatments, prescribed burning, recreation improvements and watershed work to address the purpose and need. The proposed action includes:

(1) Approximately 1,550 acres of regeneration harvest and 553 acres of intermediate harvest. These treatments would be accomplished through 1,846 acres of tractor harvest and 257 acres of skyline harvest. Pre-commercial thinning is proposed on 395 acres within the project area. Approximately 132 acres of the proposed PCT would occur within the Callahan Lynx Analysis Unit and treatment would be consistent with Forest Plan standard FW-STD-WL-01. Pruning may occur along with PCT or by itself. There are 17 units proposed that would create or contribute to 14 different openings larger than 40 acres. This action requires a 60 day public review and Regional Forester approval. This document serves as the beginning of the 60 day comment period. The largest of these treatment units would be approximately 231 acres in size. Treatments are proposed within old growth stands in the drier habitat types in Douglas-fir/ponderosa pine dominated stands to contribute to their stand resistance and resiliency. Approximately 136 acres of harvest treatments are proposed within old growth and 113 acres of treatment within recruitment potential old growth. There would be 3,351 acres of fuels treatments proposed within old-growth stands or portions of those stands.

(2) In an effort to return fire to the landscape and to promote wildlife foraging opportunities approximately 9,950 acres of prescribed burning is being proposed. Approximately 3,458 acres in the WUI are proposed for burning. Approximately 5,870 acres of this burning will occur in the Inventoried Roadless Areas of which 3,248 acres is in Idaho and 2,622 acres is in Montana.

(3) Implementation of best management practice work and road maintenance work would be implemented on Forest Service timber haul roads. Approximately 54 miles of National Forest System road would be improved to meet State BMPs for water quality.

(4) Approximately 12.6 miles of active road storage, 4.95 miles of active decommissioning, and 5.1 miles of passive decommissioning would be done on roads not currently open for public motorized travel. Roads identified in the Travel Analysis as needed for long-term management of NFS lands would be put into intermittent stored service. Roads identified as not needed for future management would be decommissioned. Both storage and Start decommissioning could have a range of treatments including simple barrier installation (passive treatment) where watershed impacts are not likely, to active treatments ranging from removing culverts to full recontouring where risks to watersheds are high. Non-motorized access would be facilitated with improved tread on road segments identified by the public as important for use. In addition, there are three sites with proposed watershed actions on existing roads including: Callahan sediment trap improvement on NFSR 414, Raymond Creek bridge removal, and Goat Creek road culvert upgrade.

(5) The district is proposing fuel mitigation and roadside thinning to facilitate fuels reduction, safe ingress and egress for the public in case of a wildland fire and road maintenance within the project area. Approximately 779 acres of thinning and 78 acres of road maintenance are proposed along only the Forest Service roads open to yearlong motorized use.

(6) Proposed Starry Goat activities would impact approximately 1,372 acres of existing grizzly bear core, nearly all of which is associated with harvest access and haul on currently barriered roads. A minor access management change at the top of Smith Mountain also contributes to this total. Gated roads that could be barriered to provide the necessary in-kind replacement of core have been identified. These roads currently do not allow for public motorized use during the bear year. Once these road are barriered and placed into core, no motorized use could occur on these roads during the bear year including administrative use.

(7) Proposed Recreation Improvements include the Threemile Mountain Bike Flow Trail and the McConnell Snowshoe Trail. The bike trail system consists of both a descent oriented “Flow Trail” and a “Cross-Country Bike” style loop. The “Flow trail” would consist of approximately 7 miles of new construction. The “Cross-Country Bike loop” would consist of approximately 6 miles of new trail construction and would be pursued as time and funding permits. The McConnell Snowshoe Trail includes approximately 4 miles of new construction.

(8) The Star Creek Quarry, North Fork 7 Mile Quarry, Three Mile Quarry and Airport Gravel Pit are proposed for free use rock picking where the public would be able to get a personal use permit (~2 tons per permit). The District proposes to increase the Airport Pit by approximately 3 acres and the North Fork 7 Mile Quarry by approximately one acre over the life of the pits.

Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received by December 7, 2016. The draft environmental impact statement is expected in June 2017 and the final environmental impact statement is expected in December 2017.

Send written comments to Kirsten Kaiser, District Ranger, Three Rivers Ranger District, 12858 U.S. Highway 2, Troy, MT 59935. Comments may be submitted online by clicking here, by email to or via facsimile to (406) 295-7410.

For further information, contact Project Team Leader Miles Friend, Three Rivers Ranger District, 12858 U.S. Highway 2, Troy, MT 59935. Phone: (406) 295-4693. Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern Time Monday through Friday.