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Bitterroot Valley Fuels Reduction Project Slated To Begin

Map showing the Westside Collaborative Vegetation Management Project. The project area is surrounded by the yellow & black line. The approximate area of the Roaring Lion fire as of 08/04/16 is shown in pink.
Map showing the Westside Collaborative Vegetation Management Project. The project area is surrounded by the yellow & black line. The approximate area of the Roaring Lion fire as of 08/04/16 is shown in pink.

Preparations are underway for a fuels reduction project in western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. The Westside Vegetation Management Project and timber sale will take place between Lost Horse and Roaring Lion creeks on the valley’s west side.

“We’ll be doing some thinning, and those logs will be taken to a sawmill somewhere," says Darby District Ranger Eric Winthers. "There’s about 5 million board feet coming out of there – about 680 truckloads total."

Winthers says the Westside project had been in the planning stages for over four years. The forest service was just weeks away from starting the contract work to implement the project last year, when a lawsuit and a major wildfire intervened.

The Roaring Lion fire destroyed sixteen homes and chewed through over thirteen square miles of timber. It also torched about one-thousand acres of the Westside project area where non-commercial thinning was planned.

A neighboring landowner, Fred Rohrbach, objected to the construction of a new road adjacent to his property and sued to stop it.

District Ranger Winthers says that suit was resolved earlier this year.

“We moved the road behind Rohrbach’s property, we moved that further to the west. And we secured access to haul a bunch of wood out of the couple of units there. So, there will probably be about 460 of the load will be hauled through his property.”

Road work to prepare for the project, including culvert replacements, grading and drainage improvements, are underway.

If all goes to plan, the thinning work could start in August.

O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at edward.obrien@umt.edu.
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