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Missoula Field Office
Release Date: 10/18/10
Contacts: Contact David Abrams 406-533-7617    

BLM Plans Fuels Reduction and Restoration Projects Near Philipsburg

The Bureau of Land Management’s Missoula Field Office is in the process of implementing the initial phases of two hazardous fuels reduction projects just north of Philipsburg. Both projects, Stuarts Gulch (220 acres) and Browns Gulch (100 acres) are intended to improve public safety by reducing fuel loads in the Wildland Urban Interface.

The projects will also improve wildlife habitat by maintaining and extending open parks encroached by conifers; increasing forage for wildlife; and restoring lower elevation, large-diameter ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir forest communities.

Originally, the projects included a timber sale to remove some of the trees (primarily merchantable Douglas-fir), to be followed by a low-intensity understory prescribed burn. However, due to market conditions, the timber did not sell, and the BLM is now working on mechanically treating the projects through fuel augmentation provided by the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest’s Pintler Ranger District saw crews. The purpose of fuel augmentation is to help prescribed burning activities achieve the WUI fuels reduction objectives, which is to limit mortality in the larger trees while increasing the mortality in the some of the smaller trees. In the end, the BLM would like fewer trees per acre and in a larger size class, a reduction in small ladder fuels, and a reduction in small conifers in the open parks (bunchgrass/sagebrush park restoration).

The Pintler Ranger District is assisting the BLM with several phases of the projects, including prescribed fire planning, fuel augmentation, and prescribed burning. The Pintler Ranger District saw crew began fuel augmentation in the Browns Gulch unit this summer in preparation for a Spring 2011 burn. However, due to the current level of mountain pine beetle activity in the Stuarts and Browns area, the project has been postponed until the BLM can evaluate the potential effects of MPB on project objectives. Although initial work has already begun to clear firelines and augment fuels for eventual prescribed burning, the BLM will not initiate any burning until the Fall of 2011, at the earliest. The BLM will issue public notices and contact local residents in the project area prior to any prescribed burning.

The Pintler Ranger District saw crew may be back in the units doing more work later this fall, winter, and/or next spring. Their work may help the trees survive further beetle attacks by decreasing competition, thus increasing tree vigor.

For more information about these projects, contact Michael Albritton, fuels specialist with the Missoula Field Office, at (406) 329-3928 or by e-mail at

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Missoula Field Office   3255 Fort Missoula Road      Missoula, MT 59804  

Last updated: 06-28-2012