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Guest column

Lolo Restoration Committee supports Marshall Woods project

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During the past year, a great deal of discussion has been held regarding the proposed Marshall Woods Restoration Project. This includes several public meetings and tours of areas identified for treatment under the proposed project, as well as multiple articles in the local media. In the past several weeks a number of articles have been published in the Missoulian pertaining to the proposed project.

In the Jan 3 article “Objections continue to smolder over Rattlesnake Rec Area forestry plan,” Jake Kreilick was interviewed regarding the objection submitted on behalf of Friends of the Rattlesnake, Wilderness Watch and the WildWest Institute. In the interview, Rob Chaney identified Kreilick as a member of the Lolo Restoration Committee, which he is; however, Chaney didn’t mention the fact that Kreilick was representing the WildWest Institute during the interview, not the Lolo Restoration Committee. Due to this omission, it appeared to some that the Lolo Restoration Committee objected to the Marshall Woods Project. This is not the case. It is true that Kreilick is a member of the Lolo Restoration Committee and we are very happy for his involvement, as he brings great energy and a valued perspective to the group. However, members of the committee thought it was important to make clear the Lolo Restoration Committee position on the project.

The Lolo Restoration Committee, a diverse set of people: environmentalists, loggers, mill employees, university staff, interested citizens – have been involved with the project from its inception. The project has gone through many gyrations and iterations since 2010. It has been a long and winding road, with compromises from all sides to achieve a decision that accomplishes many of the goals of the project, reduced wildfire risk near homes and trailheads, improved wildlife habitat, elimination of old roads, treating noxious weeds, improving fish habitat and more. The Lolo Restoration Committee could not reach consensus over the proposed restoration logging in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area but did support it in Marshall Canyon, and it provided that feedback to the Forest Service in the spring of 2015. On Aug. 5, 2015, the U.S. Forest Service published a draft decision notice dropping the harvest, and the members of the Lolo Restoration Committee met and all agreed to send a letter of support for the proposed decision.

Ranger Jennifer Hensiek’s final decision, released Jan. 28, further modified the draft decision, dropping three areas from treatment, to help resolve the two objections raised, and try to thread the needle of wants and desires across the community. We would like to express our appreciation for all the hard work done by Forest Service personnel on the Marshall Woods project. We believe the process, while challenging, has resulted in some positive actions to benefit the environment, the recreationists who use the area and partially mitigate the wildfire risks. We encourage the community to join us in supporting a decision that reflects the results of community-wide involvement. Members of the Lolo Restoration Committee look forward to seeing the implementation of the final decision notice and helping host field tours for the public to see the results. 

Dylan Brown and Dave Atkins write on behalf of the Lolo Restoration Committee. 

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