Bitterroot National Forest officials are looking at a combination of non-commercial thinning and prescribed fires over the next several years to address forest health issues in a large eastern portion of the forest. And they're partnering with the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes to accomplish it.

The massive "Eastside Habitat Improvement Project" runs the entire length of the Bitterroot National Forest, along the Sapphire Mountains in the Stevensville, Darby/Sula and Sula Ranger Districts. Here's a link to the project map.

The plan is under analysis now with a public comment period until June 10th. The details are at the Bitterroot National Forest website. Under the "Land and Resource Management" tab, click on "Projects" and then look for the "Under Analysis" heading. Or you can directly visit the project site.

Generally, as reported by Tod McKay of the Bitterroot National Forest, the project could start as early as late summer of this year. The goals are to fight insect and disease and catastrophic wildfires, reduce tree densities with a rotational prescribed fire routine, increase a mosaic pattern of regrowth in areas burned since the year 2000 and improve elk habitat and winter range.

Forest officials are hoping the public can provide any specific concerns and give feedback in their comments, due by June 10. You can visit the project site and use the "Get Connected" menu on the right side of the page. You can also send a comment to:

  • Bitterroot National Forest - Stevensville Ranger District
  • Attn: Eastside Forest & Habitat Improvement Project
  • 88 Main Street
  • Stevensville MT 59870

Or you can hand-deliver your comments to the Stevensville Ranger Station or call District Ranger Steve Brown at 406 777-5461.

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