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The Bureau of Land Management is taking public comment and will hold a public meeting on proposed thinning and prescribed burning on about 5,000 acres near Marysville.

The BLM administers about 14,000 acres in the Marysville area about 20 miles northwest of Helena. Last year the agency sent out a scoping letter for a proposed project in the area aimed at addressing fire danger, beetle kill and conifers encroaching on other vegetation.

On Tuesday, the BLM released an environmental assessment, asking the public to weigh in on work for about 5,000 acres. The document includes an alternative to commence with the project, and another no action alternative.

One aspect of the project includes removing conifers near water sources and fencing to prevent grazing as willows regenerate. Conifers would also be removed where they encroach in some sagebrush habitat.

To address areas of high tree mortality and density on 3,700 acres, the BLM proposes thinning including some commercial harvest, plus prescribed burning.

Thinning would also be used near structures in the “wildland-urban interface.”

About 20 miles of temporary roads would be built to facilitate the project.

“Action is needed in the Marysville PA to address the previously described conifer encroachment, declining forest health, and the high fuels concentrations and associated wildland fire danger to the public and to firefighter safety,” BLM documents say. “Forest, woodland, riparian, and sagebrush/grasslands communities have departed from desired conditions in terms of ecosystem process and function, composition, structure and density, and providing native wildlife habitats.”

The agency took initial public comment during preliminary scoping, receiving less than 10 comments, according the Charles Tuss with the BLM in Butte.

The majority of comments favored the project while one letter objected, he said. Concerns from that letter centered primarily on potential impacts to wildlife, including federally listed Canada lynx and grizzly bears.

The environmental assessment says lynx do occur within the planning area, but called them “sporadic.” Grizzlies also occur within the area but none are known residents, the documents say.

Additional information on anticipated environmental impacts of the project is available at http://1.usa.gov/1t28HMN.

The BLM would like to start on the project as soon as the decision is signed, with work expected to last for five years, Tuss said.

The agency will host an open house at the Marysville School, 242 Grand Street, on Wednesday, June 14, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Comments are due by June 26, and can be emailed to ctuss@blm.gov.

Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 @IR_TomKuglin

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Natural Resources Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter / Assistant Editor for The Independent Record.

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