Bitterroot National Forest

From Where Roads Will Never Reach: Wilderness and Its Visionaries in the Northern Rockies, by Frederick H. Swanson ($24.95 softcover, ©2015 University of Utah Press)

Eric Whitney

Backcountry skier Ryan Swantner is willing to work hard to get in his turns, but lately he’s had to work harder than usual.

A Bitterroot Valley environmental group is skeptical of a Forest Service plan to improve watersheds near Darby.

Local motorized off-road users, meanwhile, are supporting the 29,000 acre Darby Lumber Lands Project. 

The area is made up of lands previously owned by several different organizations and eventually acquired by the Forest Service. It's been extensively logged and also partially burned during the fires of 2000. As a result, Bitterroot Forest hydrologist, Ed Snook, says too much sediment is getting into local waterways.

U.S. Forest Service Northern Region (CC-BY-2.0)

The U.S. Forest Service has a new plan for land impacted by logging and logging roads near Darby.

"These road systems are basically unraveling before our eyes," says Ed Snook, a hydrologist on the Bitterroot National Forest.

The agency says roads constructed decades ago by Darby Lumber Company were built without water resources in mind, and that’s led to increased sediment levels in area waterways.

Snook says the new plan for the area aims to create a sustainable motorized access system and loop-based motorized routes, including 15 miles of single track trail.