Elk NetworkUSFS-RMEF Project to Improve Wildlife Forage in Western Montana

General | March 4, 2022

The Lincoln Ranger District of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest collaborated with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to conduct several spring burning projects in western Montana.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, prescribed fire can provide numerous benefits to land, wildlife and people including opening understory, reducing the risk of crisis wildfires, and returning nutrients to the soil. Prescribed burning is planned around Ogden Mountain, Poorman Creek, Marsh Creek, and Flescher Pass. Burning does not take place unless weather and fuel conditions allow and will continue through mid-June.

The Helmville Face Wildlife Enhancement Project is located in the Ogden Mountain area. This project is a joint effort between the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest and is intended to enhance big game forage by reintroducing fire into a historically fire dominated ecosystem. These units are located approximately 12 miles west of Lincoln adjacent to Forest Service Road #1163, the Ogden Mountain Road.

The Poorman Creek Project area is located between Lincoln and Stemple Pass adjacent to County Road #601, the Stemple Pass Road.  Units located in the areas of Long Gulch, Rochester Gulch, and Crater Mountain are intended to mitigate fuel hazards, bring back historic meadows to the area, and enhance big game forage. Treatment activities in this area also include collaborative efforts between the USDA Forest Service and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Units located in the areas of South Fork of Poorman Creek, Little Davis Gulch, Prickly Gulch, Mead Gulch, and Baldy Mountain focus on the burning of grass parks and meadows to enhance big game forage.

Pile burning is planned along Marsh Creek Road, West Flesher Road and along the Continental Divide Trail from Flesher Pass Trailhead to Stemple Pass.  This work will be done to remove hand piles, machine piles, and landing piles created from the construction of fuel breaks during the Horsefly and Nevada Creek fires in 2019.

Pile burning will also be conducted to treat slash created from firewood cutting activity and the Willow Creek Project area.  Pile burning can be expected in the following areas: Flesher Pass, Stemple Pass, Alice Creek Road, Dalton Mountain Road, Beaver Creek Rd, Park Creek Road, Stonewall Creek Road, and Nevada Ogden Mountain Road.

All prescribed burning will be conducted under the terms and conditions of a permit from the Montana State Department of Environmental Quality, which includes requirements to minimize the impacts of smoke to the public. Ignition will only take place if operational safety, air quality parameters, weather and fuel moisture conditions can be attained.

(Photo credit:  Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest)