The Bitterroot National Forest (BNF) has opened the comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement of the Gold Butterfly Project in the Sapphire Mountains east of Corvallis. Tod McKay of the BNF reported the project is on the Stevensville and Darby Ranger Districts between St. Clair Creek and Burnt Fork Creek. About 9,500 acres have dense pockets of dead and dying trees from the infestation of mountain pine beetles, Douglas-fir bark beetles, western spruce budworm and dwarf mistletoe. The Bitterroot Community Wildlife Protection Plan has labeled the area a "high priority" for fuel reduction in the Wildland Urban Interface.

Objectives include improve forest resilience to fire, insects and disease, reduce sediment in Willow Creek, restore or improve meadows, aspen and whitebark pine and to provide forest products, jobs and income. Officials expect to include commercial timber harvest, non-commercial thinning and prescribed burning.

McKay, in a news release, noted the project is proposed under the Healthy forest Restoration Act and the Draft EA is available online at the project website. On the site, you can also see how the project developed. The deadline for public comment is July 30, 2018.

Comments can be sent to Bitterroot Forest Supervisor Julie King, Bitterroot National Forest, Gold Butterfly Project, 1801 North First in Hamilton, MT 59840, or email: comments-northern-bitterroot-stevensville@fs.fed.us. For more information contact Tami Sabol, Stevensville District Ranger at (406) 777-5461.