By Ann McCreary

The Methow Valley Ranger District is seeking input on a proposal to conduct hazardous fuels reduction on national forest lands around Mazama.

Interested individuals are encouraged to participate in project planning by providing written comments to District Ranger Michael Liu by July 16.

The proposed project has two purposes, said Meg Trebon, assistant fire management officer/fuels for the Methow Ranger District. The first is to reduce the risk of wildfires moving between National Forest and private lands in the area, and the second is to help improve the health and vigor of forested stands and associated wildlife habitat.

Proposed treatments would reduce accumulations of surface and ladder fuel by thinning with chainsaws and through prescribed fire treatments. Thinning and pruning understory trees that allow fire to climb readily into overstory tree crowns would reduce the risk of surface and crown fires spreading onto private lands adjacent to treated areas, Trebon said.

Existing surface debris, along with any debris created from thinning and pruning, would be either hand-piled and burned, or reduced by underburning.  Where permitted, thinned material between five and seven inches in diameter could be made available for firewood gathering. Debris from thinning and pruning may also be made available for fish habitat improvement projects, Trebon said.

Treatments would occur adjacent to private lands in cooperation with private landowners who are interested in participating in the effort. The intent would be to complete the fuels reduction work by 2020. No commercial timber harvest, new road construction, or road decommissioning is proposed as part of this project, Trebon said.

Most timber stands in the area include ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. Decades of fire suppression in the project area have resulted in dense stands with increased fuel accumulations. Recent insect and disease activity has led to some tree mortality.

These conditions create a higher likelihood of uncharacteristically severe wildfire, increasing the risk to private lands, timber stands, and wildlife habitat, Trebon said. The 2003 Needles Fire and the 2006 Cedar Fire demonstrated the capability of wildfires to move rapidly down-drainage from National Forest lands.

Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names and addresses of those who comment, will be considered part of the public record on this proposed action and will be available for public inspection.

Comment letters should be addressed to Michael Liu, Methow Valley District Ranger, attention: Meg Trebon, 24 West Chewuch Road, Winthrop, WA 98862, or can be emailed to mtrebon@fs.fed.us For further information about the project, contact Trebon at 996-4032.