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logging

Preparations are underway for a fuels reduction project in western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. The Westside Vegetation Management Project and timber sale will take place between Lost Horse and Roaring Lion creeks on the valley’s west side.

“We’ll be doing some thinning, and those logs will be taken to a sawmill somewhere," says Darby District Ranger Eric Winthers. "There’s about 5 million board feet coming out of there – about 680 truckloads total."

"We're not going to roll over every time someone says 'boo' about us wanting to harvest timber to make a healthy forest," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said at a agriculture summit in Great Falls, MT July 1, 2017.
Eric Whitney

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was in Great Falls Thursday for an “agriculture summit” hosted by Senator Steve Daines. Perdue promised big changes at the U.S. Forest Service, which his department oversees. 

An escalating trade war brewing between the United States and Canada could save timber mills in Montana, but at the cost of over 1,000 jobs north of the border in British Columbia.
(PD)

An escalating trade war brewing between the United States and Canada could save timber mills in Montana, but at the cost of over 1,000 jobs north of the border in British Columbia.

It all started in April, when the Trump administration slapped tariffs on softwood lumber coming across the border, making them up to 24 percent more expensive. It’s something Montana lumber producers have been asking for, and it’s a test of Trump’s ‘America First’ trade policy. 

The Roaring Lion fire burning five miles southwest of Hamilton, MT, July 31, 2016.
Inciweb

Forty-five acres of trees killed by a major wildfire last summer are slated for harvest. The Bitterroot National Forest today announced it’s moving forward on the salvage project in the Roaring Lion draining southwest of Hamilton.

Eric Whitney

On Wednesday night, 75 people crowded into the Swan Lake Club House to hear a first of its kind in Montana proposal that would transfer management of some National Forest land to the state.

Live and beetle killed trees in the Helena National Forest.
Steve Jess

Local environmental groups, timber industry representatives, and state and federal agencies will meet in Missoula this week to talk about collaboration. The two-day workshop is put on by the Western Governors' Association.

Governor Steve Bullock announced today he’s committing $1.5 million of state fire suppression funds for various forest restoration and fuel reduction projects.
Josh Burnham (CC-BY-2.0)

Governor Steve Bullock announced today he’s committing $1.5 million of state fire suppression funds for various forest restoration and fuel reduction projects.

Montana State Forester Bob Harrington says this is a great use of that money:

Weyerhaeuser closed its lumber and plywood mills in Columbia Falls last week.
Eric Whitney

A job at the lumber mills in Columbia Falls was supposed to be the kind of job you’d have forever. But forever came to an end last Friday, when the Weyerhaeuser Company sawed its last logs at its lumber and plywood mills in the industrial heart of the Flathead Valley. The mills had been open since the late 1940s.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock announces the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative at Pyramid Mountain Lumber in Seeley Lake Montana August 16, 2016..
Corin Cates-Carney

In June, Montana’s Democratic Governor Steve Bullock was elected chairman of the Western Governors' Association. The WGA is made up of 14 Republicans, six Democrats and two independents.

Tuesday, Bullock announced that he’s launching a new WGA initiative. He’s calling it the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative.

In response to our August 4 interview with Bitterroot National Forest District Ranger Eric Winthers about the forest thinning project in the area of the Roaring Lion Fire, and the litigation over it, Forest Spokesman Tod McKay offered the following clarifications:  

Shortly after the Roaring Lion Fire broke out July 31st, charges and  counter-charges flew that a lawsuit or lawsuits had or had not stopped US Forest Service attempts to log or thin the affected area to reduce fire danger. 

I interviewed the Bitterroot National Forest's District Ranger about that on August 1st, you can read that interview, edited only for clarity, in its entirety below. 

On August 5th Bitterroot National Forest Public Affairs Officer Tod McKay sent me the following email: 

"I just want to clarify something that may have been a little confusing.  It was in response to your question on timing when you asked, 'so you guys were literally within weeks of getting out there and doing some treatment to reduce fire dangers?”' Eric (Winteher)’s response, 'Yes, the Forest Supervisor had signed the decision, and we were proceeding ahead, getting ready to get that going.'

Just a couple of clarifications on this.

  1.  We were a couple of weeks away from working on the contract to implement this project—i.e., not a couple of weeks away from on-the-ground thinning or logging. We expected to award a contract in September (before the end of the FY) and that work would begin in the winter.
  1. The lawsuit was filed July 26, 2016. Plaintiffs requested an injunction but none has been issued to date. In other words, we had no reason to, nor any plan to alter the Westside Project timeline at the point in time when the Roaring Lion Fire started.

We hope this helps clear-up confusion regarding the actual ‘start time’ of the project and are sorry that we weren’t more clear in the interview. "

We have also reached out to the attorney's for the litigants in the lawsuit, asking for comment, and have not heard back at this time. 

We regret any confusion caused by publishing incorrect information given to us by the Bitterroot National Forest, and plan to follow up with additional reporting on this story. 

-Eric Whitney, News Director, Montana Public Radio. 

Part of the Bitterroot National Forest that’s burning in the Roaring Lion fire southwest of Hamilton was just a couple of weeks away from being logged and thinned – both to sell timber and to reduce fire danger. But a lawsuit filed three weeks after the project was approved put a halt to it.

Timber sales and thinning projects can have an impact on whether wildfires start and their ability to spread, but don't necessarily guarantee improved fire safety.

Firefighters call the Roaring Lion Fire one of the worst they've ever seen. A common refrain among evacuees: The Forest Service should more aggressively thin forests to prevent fires and create jobs.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

New Campaign Touts Benefits Of Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project
Courtesy Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project

A coalition of Seeley Lake and Ovando-area residents say they’ve developed a plan to both protect and use local public lands. The group’s rebooted its public relations campaign to attract some congressional attention.

A logging proposal just north of Whitefish seems to have widespread local backing. It’s also raised a few quality-of-life related concerns.

Hundreds of Montana timber workers will keep their jobs in mills in Evergreen and Columbia Falls, this after forest products giants Plum Creek Timber and Weyerhaeuser consummated their merger today.

Live and beetle killed trees in the Helena National Forest.
Steve Jess

State officials say the new kinds of forest management tools the Farm Bill gave them are good for both Montana’s forests and the state’s economy. But some environmentalists say those claims are dubious at best.

Wildland Firefighters working on fire line on the West Fork Fish Creek Fire in 2015.
Inciweb

The U.S. Forest Service will have to wait before it can change how it pays to fight wildfires.

When federal fire suppression funds run out during bad fire years, the agency has to transfer money from its other programs to cover those costs. Firefighting now costs the agency over half of its $5 billion total annual budget.

New Campaign Touts Benefits Of Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project
Courtesy Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project

Ten years ago people in the Seeley Lake area who were tired of constant fighting over logging and other uses of public lands in Montana got together to try to come up with a new, better way of resolving conflicts. They came up with something called the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project, designed to improve the health of local forests, and at the same time keep local timber jobs. The agreement also got consensus on protecting additional land as Wilderness. Wednesday evening, members of the Project are getting together in Missoula to celebrate their accomplishments over the decade. We talked about it with Zack Porter, a field director for the Montana Wilderness Association.
 


Weyerhaeuser is buying Plum Creek Timber for over $8 billion. Montana Wood Products Association Executive Vice President, Julia Altemus suspects the merger agreement will have little impact on Montana’s remaining wood products industry, including Plum Creek’s medium density fiberboard plant in Columbia Falls.

The project near Whitefish Mountain Resort is designed to reduce fire danger and protect the City of Whitefish's watershed.
By Donnie Clapp for Whitefish Mountain Resort

Specialists developing a fuel reduction project to reduce fire danger for homes north of Whitefish and to protect the city’s watershed held an open house Wednesday evening.

A new kind of fast-track timber sale is being proposed to reduce fire danger around homes northwest of Whitefish.

It’s on 1,300 acres of National Forest land near the ski resort. The City of Whitefish asked the Forest Service to thin trees from the area in 2004, but was told there was no funding available.

Bell & Jeff (CC-BY-2.0)

Ninety employees of Tricon Timber in St. Regis were laid off Friday. The company's website says it’s one of the largest employers in western Montana's Mineral county.

Fire Birds: Valuing Natural Wildfires and Burned Forests, by Sneed B. Collard III

Bucking Horse Books, 2015

It's been a hot and smoky summer here in Western Montana and most of us were grateful for the rain that eventually brought an end to our smoke-filled air. Those of us who grew up in the United States from the 1940s to the 1970s will remember the Forest Service's longest-running PSA campaign in history with the mascot of Smoky the Bear and the slogan, “Only you can prevent forest fires!”

Senator Jon Tester says a forest management reform bill co-sponsored by Montana Republican Ryan Zinke that recently passed in the U.S House will have a tougher time in the Senate.
PD

Senator Jon Tester says a forest management reform bill co-sponsored by Montana Republican Ryan Zinke that recently passed in the U.S. House will have a tougher time in the Senate. The bill scales back environmental reviews for some timber projects, and makes it harder to file lawsuits that delay thinning projects.

Lake Como on a fall day.
U.S. Forest Service Northern Region (CC-BY-2)

The Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor has signed-off on a project to thin over 2,200 acres on the Darby Ranger District between Lake Como and Lost Horse Canyon.

U.S. Capitol
flickr user Tim Evanson (CC-BY-SA-2)

The U.S. House has passed legislation designed to improve the health of national forests by scaling back the environmental reviews that go into some timber projects, and making it harder to file lawsuits that delay thinning projects.

Montana Republican Ryan Zinke is co-sponsoring the bill.

Art In The Woods Revitalizes A Town

Jul 5, 2015
Chérie Newman

Last weekend, a group of people from the town of Lincoln, Montana, held a celebration at Sculpture in the Wild, a park designed to celebrate their heritage with art. Sculpture in the Wild is the brainchild of Rick Dunkerly, a local resident and artisan knifemaker who serves as executive director for the organization.

"The goal is to invite artists in here to create artwork that responds to environmental and industrial heritage of the Blackfoot Valley," says Dunkerly.

Rep. Ryan Zinke
Eric Whitney

Montana's Representative in the U.S. House says a wildfire burning near Glacier National Park shows why comprehensive forest management reform is needed. Republican Ryan Zinke yesterday visited with crews fighting the 85-acre Glacier Rim Fire.

Sen. Daines at Chessman Reservoir with federal, state and local forest officials.
Steve Jess

Steve Jess is on the road, a few miles south of Helena, trailing a convoy carrying Senator Steve Daines and an assortment of local officials. They travel down about 20 miles of dirt road and the occasional cattle guard to a site just yards from the Chessman reservoir, where many of the surrounding hills bear the corpses of lodgepole pines killed by the mountain pine beetle.

Sen. Daines and other officials on a tour of the Tenmile watershed.
Steve Jess

Montana Senator Steve Daines toured a beetle-infested area of the Helena National Forest Tuesday, and praised a joint federal-state effort to reduce fire danger. 

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