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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Bitterroot National Forest Withdraws Gold Butterfly Project

Map of the Gold Butterfly Project vicinity.
Bitterroot National Forest
Map of the Gold Butterfly Project vicinity.

It’s back to the drawing board for a huge vegetation management project in the Bitterroot National Forest. Forest Supervisor Matt Anderson has withdrawn his record of decision for the 7,300 Gold Butterfly Project on the Stevensville Ranger District.

It called for 5,600 acres of commercial logging, and included non-commercial thinning as well as about 4,800 acres of prescribed burns.

Friends of the Bitterroot and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies sued to stop the project in July.

Their complaint said it did not meet standards for road limitations in elk habitat. It also said the project violated the federal Healthy Forest Restoration Act because it included logging in old growth woods.

Alliance Executive Director Mike Garrity explained.

“The forest plan has standards that says they have to retain a certain amount of old growth to benefit wildlife, and they were logging more than the forest plan allowed,” he said.

Forest officials did not respond to MTPR by deadline, but Forest Supervisor Matt Anderson wrote in a press release that “Upon further review of the project analysis, we recognized some deficiencies regarding Forest Plan compliance.”

The release also said the forest is committed to eventually completing the project.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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