A proposal has been released for a forest project on the West Fork District of the Bitterroot National Forest. According to Public Affairs Officer Tod McKay, the project would be in a 49,000 acre that includes the West Fork of the Bitterroot River and Rombo Creek watershed, along with portions of the following watersheds - Nez Perce Fork-Nelson Lake, Little West Fork, Lloyd Creek, Lower Blue Joint and Painted Rocks Lake watershed.

The draft plan, available on-line, would include trail and road system changes, commercial and non-commercial timber harvests and thinning and prescribed burning. The work would also help elk habitat, including elk thermal cover and old growth forest. The objectives - improve resilience to fire, insects and disease, reduce potential fire severity, improve wildlife habitat and improve the road system and trails for long term land management. McKay said there will be an online public webinar April 6th at 6 p.m. The project website will soon have login information.

The Bitterroot Community Wildfire Protection Plan lists the area as a "high priority" for forest fuel reduction, and the Montana Forest Action Plan also reports the area as having a high wildfire risk for communities, with significant forest health concerns.

The trail and road work planned is due to the large amount of roads in the area that need repair and maintenance, which have been adding to sediment in the streams and rivers. In developing the project, the Bitterroot National Forest worked with such groups as Ravalli County Collaborative, Bitterroot Forest Collaborative and Ravalli County Off Road Users Association.

The public has until April 20 to submit their comments. You can do it online or mail it to West Fork Ranger District, 6735 West Fork Road, Darby, MT 59829. If you have questions, contact Seth Carbonari of the West Fork Ranger District at 406-821-1212 or seth.carbonari@usda.gov.

Trees along a road in the Mud Creek area. (Bitterroot National Forest-provided photo)

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