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Fire, Timber Projects On Tap At White Sulphur Springs Open House

Belt Creek, in the Little Belt Mountains, Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest
Eric Whitney
Belt Creek, in the Little Belt Mountains, Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest

The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest is hosting their annual open house next week in White Sulphur Springs.

"It’s mainly just to invite the public in to talk about projects that we’ve been working on over the years, but also projects that we have planned field work going on this upcoming summer," Kathy Bushnell, a spokesperson for the Forest says. 

Spring and summer activities in the Belt Creek - White Sulphur Springs Ranger District include prescribed burns, trail maintenance and improvement projects and weed spraying. The Forest is also taking public comment this month on a couple of pretty big forest thinning projects, called the Castle Mountain and Horsefly projects.

"The Castles project we have for open for a public comment period that ends April 30th," Bushnell says.

A draft Environmental Impact Statementsays the Castle project is aimed at restoring health to about 22,000 acres with a lot of damage from pine beetles and spruce budworm. The idea is prevent fires and make the forest more resilient. It includes about 2,800 acres of commercial and pre-commercial thinning.

The other project the Forest Service is asking for comment on this month is for a little over 20,000 acres in the Little Belt Mountains.

"Horsefly is a project that we have just a proposal out, and that we want to hear from people by April 26th," Bushnell says.

The Horsefly proposalincludes mechanical thinning and large landscape burns. Goals include improving conditions for aspen and whitebark pine trees.

The all-projects open house for the Belt Creek - White Sulphur Springs Ranger District happens Wednesday, April 18, from 4 to 6 p.m. in White Sulphur Springs. Details are below:

"Members of the public are invited to the Belt Creek-White Sulphur Springs Ranger District’s All Projects Open House in White Sulphur Springs on Wednesday, April 18th at the Meager County emergency Services Training Center (102 W. Crawford St.) from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Project updates will be available on Vegetation Treatment Projects including: Moose Creek, Showdown, Castles, Kings Hill Campground, Upper Sheep Creek Timber Sale, Three Cabins Timber Sale, and Horsefly Vegetation Project. District and forest staff can discuss upcoming planned prescribed burn projects, trails activities, food storage order, and noxious weed spraying slated for this field season. Additionally, information will be available on a proposed road decommissioning and potential vegetation project in the Spring Creek area of the southern Little Belt Mountains. For more information, contact the Belt Creek White Sulphur Springs Ranger District offices: White Sulphur Springs office at 547-3361, or Neihart office at 236-5511."

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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