Ravalli County Coverage

Mar 4, 2013 12:52 PM by KPAX/KAJ Media Center

Pine beetle battle moves to Bass Creek Recreation Area

HAMILTON - Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Julie King has announced that Pyramid Mountain Lumber of Seeley Lake has been awarded a timber stewardship contract for the Larry-Bass Project on the Stevensville Ranger District.

The project includes 1,200 acres in the Larry and Bass Creek drainages in the Bitterroot mountain range, west of Stevensville, a very popular area among horseback riders, mountain bikers, and hikers which is visited by more than 50,000 people each year.

Forest officials say the area is a high priority for treatment because of its high levels of public use and increased levels of pine beetle mortality.

The project is designed to improve forest health and resiliency while also protecting the areas large and distinctive pine trees from mountain pine beetles. The project will add approximately four miles of existing trails to the National Forest trail system, according to a news release.

The commercial logging will take place on 765 acres, with non-commercial thinning also set to reduce tree densities on 41 acres. Crews will also remove conifers that are encroaching on 58 acres of aspen trees to improve the vegetation diversity

The project will provide nearly 4 million board feet of timber (1,100 truckloads) to Montana sawmills. Along with the timber harvest, it will also reduce hazardous fuels and fire hazards created by the dead, dying and diseased trees.

"We are excited to announce that we are awarding this timber stewardship contract to Pyramid Mountain Lumber," said Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Julie King. "This area is one of the most popular recreation areas on the forest and it's critical that this project get started immediately due to pine beetle impacts in the area."

Surveys in 2011 indicate mountain pine beetle populations have increased from ‘moderate' to ‘high hazard'. Thinning the overcrowded forest helps to increase airflow, temperatures, and the amount of sunlight that reaches tree trunks and the forest floor - all conditions that make it harder for the beetles to attack and kill trees.

Implementation of the project was delayed last fall due to an appeal contending the Forest did not adequately analyze the project's impacts on biodiversity or disclose whether it had obtained necessary water pollution permits. Both of the challenges were denied by Deputy Regional Forester Jane Cottrell who ruled the agency followed all laws, regulations and policies.

The Bitterroot National Forest is experiencing increasing tree mortality from the mountain pine beetle that is present at epidemic levels over much of the Northern Region.

For more information contact the Stevensville Ranger District at (406) 777.5461.

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