Residents pepper USFS with questions over plans for Bitterroot front

The agency is proposing regular use of existing tools, from select logging projects to prescribed burning for a healthier forest. (KPAX photo)

FLORENCE — A sweeping plan to manage forests and wildfire along the Bitterroot Front is generating some intense questions from the public, with people asking about future logging and fire protection.

The plan being floated by the Bitterroot National Forest would set up a longterm framework for managing the public lands along the west side of the Bitterroot Valley resulting in healthy forests, better wildlife habitat and less risk from major fires.

The plan would also encourage cooperation with private landowners to do the same things.

But some people are wondering whether the plan would bring more logging with less public input. The agency is proposing regular use of existing tools, from select logging projects to prescribed burning for a healthier forest.

“Fuels reduction covers everything from hand thinning and hand piling, and commercial thinning where the trees are of commercial product you know and prescribed burning,” explained Darby District Ranger Eric Winthers.

“Once we can thin it enough where we’ll go in and burn every five years or so to keep that understory cleared out.”

The final briefing is slated for Tuesday, Nov. 12, at the Bitterroot River Inn and Conference Center in Hamilton, starting at 6 pm.