HAMILTON – The Bitterroot National Forest is proposing to cut timber on 2,113 acres in the upper reaches of Three Mile and Ambrose Creek drainages under a stewardship project that will send about 6 million board feet of timber to Montana mills.
Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Julie King signed the decision notice on the Three Saddle Project last week.
Her signature officially started a 45-day appeal and comment period for the stewardship project that proposes to log 1,255 acres and non-commercially thin another 469 acres.
The project would decommission more than 10 miles of road, as well as use prescribed fire to reduce fuel loading on some of the acreage.
“It’s sort of a soup to nuts sort of project,” said Bitterroot Forest planning staff officer Jerry Krueger.
If the project is not appealed, the agency will offer it for sale in August or September. The first logging could begin later this fall.
The project focuses on improving forest health and stand resiliency in the area, Krueger said.
“The beetle issues that are occurring in the area are really the genesis for the project,” he said. “Primarily, the beetles are impacting lodgepole pine stands there, but we are also seeing some beetle activity in the Doug fir as well.”
The Stevensville District is just wrapping up a similar-sized project just to the south called Haacke-Claremont.
“It was a very similar project with similar types of stands,” Krueger said. “All the timber removal has occurred at this point on that first project, but there is still some road restoration and erosion control to be completed.”
The area has been managed for timber in the past. Some of the stands being considered for treatment were harvested in the 1970s. Those harvest units regenerated and many are now overstocked with trees competing for growing space.
Officials say thinning the units would improve forest health and make the remaining trees more resilient to fire, insects and disease.
The project is expected to produce enough timber to fill about 1,200 truckloads for Montana mills.
Krueger said the agency has received inquiries from the normal cast of parties interested in the commercial timber.
“One of the most rewarding was the call from Rocky Mountain Log Homes, who expressed some interest in the lodgepole portion of the project for house logs,” Krueger said.
Copies of the Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact are available online at fs.usda.gov/projects/bitterroot/landmanagement/projects.
For more information or questions concerning the project, call Dan Ritter, Stevensville district ranger, at 777-5461.