KAMIAH, Idaho:—On December 15, 2023, Forest Supervisor, Chery Probert, approved a project designed to improve forest health and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in the Elk City area.
The Limber Elk project is located approximately seven miles north of Elk City, Idaho, and is situated within firesheds with a more than 90 percent “high” or “very high” risk of wildfire. All resulting project activities are designed to reduce fuels and improve forest health by increasing resiliency to insect and disease infestations. Forest Supervisor Cheryl Probert explained “The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests are committed to improving forest health through the best available science. The Limber Elk Project will simultaneously protect nearby communities in the Wildland Urban Interface and result in healthier forests for future generations.”
The project was first proposed in response to a Western Hemlock looper outbreak, an insect infestation that causes trees to lose their needles and can cause tree fatalities. Subsequent surveys of the area identified the presence of additional fatal tree diseases, which made this project a priority for the forest. The project was authorized under an Emergency Action Determination, that allows the Forest Service to take swift actions to protect public health and safety, critical infrastructure, and natural resources. These emergency authorities provide the Forest Service the opportunity to accelerate planning and implementation of fuels and forest health treatments on high-risk firesheds while involving the public in every step of the planning process.
The project will take place within the Lower Salmon Wildfire Crisis Strategy Landscape, where the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests are conducting a series of treatments including mastication, timber harvest, and prescribed burning to aggressively reduce fuels that pose a substantial risk to nearby communities and engage in riparian restoration that slows the spread of wildfire. This program empowers fire managers to take systematic action and partner with federal, state, Tribal, and local governments, community groups, and nonprofit organizations to protect communities threatened by wildfire.
The Limber Elk decision approves commercial timber harvest on up to 2,657 acres and includes post-harvest fuel treatments and site preparation for planting. Additional protection for nearby communities is achieved through hand thinning and pruning of the understory adjacent to private property. All treatments will reduce hazardous fuels in this area.
The project will have additional benefits including 55 miles of road maintenance to facilitate timber harvest and reduce the amount of sedimentation from existing roads. The project will also remove dead or dying trees near roads. Post harvest, forest openings will be planted with new, healthy trees resistant to the diseases found in the project area.
Additional information about the decision can be found at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=58262