Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, in cooperation with the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, is working to manage fire resiliency on the 20,000-acre Sun River Wildlife Management Area west of Augusta. A 300-acre prescribed burn is planned on the WMA to assist Montana FWP with enhancing elk habitat and reducing fuel loads.

“This is a short disturbance for long-term benefits for wintering elk,” said FWP area wildlife biologist Brent Lonner. “As partners and neighbors, we are working together with the Forest Service to improve habitat for elk and other wildlife while also improving fire resiliency of the landscape.”

The Sun River WMA, popular among wildlife enthusiasts and shed hunters, is still planning to open to the general public as expected at noon on May 15. Until that date, it will remain closed to minimize wintering elk disturbance.

Smoke may be visible from Choteau, Augusta and Great Falls. Burning is expected to start this week and wrap up by mid-April. An early spring burn to follow up on previous conifer thinning treatments is ideal to remove downed trees, reduce fuel loads and stimulate vegetation growth leading into the summer season. To minimize smoke impact on communities, the exact timing of the burns will depend on weather, the dryness of fuels and air flow. Funding for this habitat management work was provided by both internal FWP funds and a grant through the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Contact Brent Lonner at 406-467-2488 or email BLonner@mt.gov for further questions specific to this project.