Posted: Jul 24, 2012 2:46 PM by Dennis Bragg - KPAX News
Updated: Jul 24, 2012 4:13 PM
STEVENSVILLE- Bitterroot National Forest managers are deciding to take their fight against the pine beetle to the next level outside Stevensville, approving a plan to remove dead trees to save the rest of the forest.
The U.S. Forest Service has already been on the offensive against the spread of the pine beetles in the popular Bass Creek and Larry Creek drainages in the Bitterroot foothills.
A few weeks ago, the agency sprayed more than 700 of the trees most susceptible to being attacked by beetles. That process, spraying the trees down with Carbaryl, was done just before the beetles were set to fly from diseased trees, protecting "high value" trees around trailheads and campgrounds.
Crews then returned in June to attach Verbanone patches as extra insurance. Those patches give off a pheromone signal to the male beetles, fooling them into thinking those trees are already infested. But those steps are labor intensive and expensive.
Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Julie King has now given the okay to a plan to log infested trees in an effort to protect a broader area of large ponderosa pine over 1,200 acres in the Bass Creek Recreation Area. The work is similar to what's been underway at Lake Como since last winter.
Logging will take place on 765 acres, with non-commercial thinning on another 41 acres and removing conifers that are encroaching on 58 acres of aspen.
King says ‘this situation is not going to get better anytime soon and we need to act now to try to protect the Bass Creek Recreation Area, before it's too late."
Forest managers say the project will help to keep that section of forest healthy from the pine beetle outbreak, a critical step since the Bass Creek area is used by more than 50,000 people per year.
In addition to cutting the risk of wildfire from the dead trees, the project would provide nearly 4-million board feet, or 800 truckloads of timber for Western Montana sawmills.
Four miles of "unofficial" trails in the area will also be brought up to U.S. Forest Service standards and added to the agency's trail system and the logging could start as soon as this fall.
U.S. Forest Service officials say as many as 50,000 people a year use the Bass Creek Recreation Area, so its critical to maintain the health of the forest.