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Forest seeks comments on timber salvage project at ski area

 

The Sula Ranger District on the Bitterroot National Forest is seeking public comments on a proposed timber salvage project at the Lost Trail Powder Mountain Ski Area. The purpose of the project is to harvest trees within the ski area that have been killed or attacked by the Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB). The project isn’t proposed to take place until next summer with all the work occurring before the beginning of the 2012-2013 ski season.

Currently, the Bitterroot National Forest is experiencing increasing tree mortality from the MPB, an aggressive bark beetle that is present at epidemic levels over much of the Northern Rocky Mountain Region. The latest aerial detection survey of the Forest showed a six-fold increase in the acres of lodgepole pine killed by MPB between 2009-11. Throughout the Forest, pine beetles are killing trees at a rate of 14:1; this means that for each tree successfully attacked this year, fourteen trees will likely be attacked next year. Therefore, implementing the proposed treatments as soon as possible is important.

The Forest is proposing to harvest approximately 250 acres of dead, dying, and live trees in and directly adjacent to the ski area, near chairlifts #1, 2 and 3. Approximately 175 acres would be harvested using a ground based-system and the rest using a cable or “skyline” system. The project would require the construction of approximately ½ mile of track line machine trail and ¼ mile of road. Both the trail and road would be temporary and rehabilitated at the conclusion of the operation.

Removing the dead and dying trees next to ski runs and along the chairlifts is necessary because they present hazards to the public and ski area operations. The project will also help keep dead trees from falling onto cables and into ski runs and will protect ski area aesthetics by reducing the red and gray trees and emphasizing the green, live trees in the area.

“This is a serious situation and we need to take action now,” said Sula District Ranger Ruth Wooding. “Lost Trail Powder Mountain Ski Area is one of the most popular areas on the Forest visited by more than 45,000 people annually. The ski area also provides a big economic boost to our community as it employees more than 130 permanent and temporary employees. We need to do everything possible to protect the public and this high-value recreation area.”

The 1,300-acre Lost Trail Powder Mountain Ski Area operates under a special Forest Service permit and has been owned and operated by the Grasser family since 1967.

Public comments on the proposal are now being accepted. Written, facsimile, hand-delivered, oral and electronic comments will be accepted through January 3, 2012.

When submitting comments, provide: (1) your name, address, and organization represented, if any; (2) reference the Lost Trail Ski Area Salvage Project; (3) information regarding the proposed action along with supporting reasons that you believe should be considered; and (4) your signature.

Submit written and oral comments to: Ruth M. Wooding – District Ranger, Sula Ranger District, 7338 Hwy 93 South, Sula MT 59871, (406) 821-2329 or fax (406) 821-1211.

Business hours for those submitting hand-delivered comments are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Electronic comments can be submitted to comments-northern-bitterroot-sula@fs.fed.us.

This proposed treatment is just one of numerous projects on the Forest to protect trees against MPB attacks. Other recent projects include spraying trees in campgrounds and high-use recreation areas with Carbaryl, an insecticide and using Verbenone, a pheromone which communicates via smell to prevent beetle attacks. The Forest is also planning to thin and remove infested trees this spring at the ski area near chairlift #4 and is also analyzing numerous long-term MPB treatment plans for both the Lake Como and Bass Creek Recreation Areas.

For more information contact Tod McKay at 363-7122 or Ruth Wooding, Sula District Ranger, at 821-3201.

 

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