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Look to the postive, get involved

 


This past two summers, Sanders County has had two major fires and Mineral County one major fire. We have all complained that these fires should not and would not have been so major if we had proper forest management carried on for the last 30 years. As a farmer, I am in total agreement with that line of thought. That is something we need to work on and support. This letter is to point out how small changes have come about in recent years relating to forest management and why.

As you drive down the highways in our communities, you once again see fairly heavy logging truck traffic. The lowboys once again are hauling forest harvest equipment to timber sales and not fires. We see logging trucks and crews parked at motels in the evenings and fueling at the local pumps, eating meals in local restaurants. There seem to be jobs for locals at the mills and in the woods. There are green timber sales and fire salvage sales creating this activity. Much of this activity is due to some locals having worked in the background over a year ago.

After the Copper King Fire, the forest service was proceeding with their normal talk of some salvage sales. Weyerhauser was logging almost before the fire was out and DNRC was proceeding to set up their sales on a fairly fast track. The forest service has their required paperwork which usually slows a sale to the point that fire salvage timber is often past its usefulness. Many folks were trying to put some pressure on to speed up the process. A field trip took place out on the Copper King fire area in the fall of 2016. Those in attendance were industry, Idaho Forest Group (formerly Tricon Timber) and TRL, local forest service personnel, local and state elected officials, environmental interests, and some local interested personnel. The infield discussion brought out the outcry for entry into this area as soon as possible so the economic benefits would not be lost, a capacity for industry to salvage greater volumes with possible different techniques than the forest service was considering, and the frustration with the normally slow pace of the forest service. The discussion of a fairly new option of Emergency Situation Determination was brought up to speed the process but this had be mentioned to the Forest Supervisor and rejected. This was a fairly new concept, thus the hesitancy. The field trip group felt this would help bring the salvage about sooner and sustain the economic viability and pushed to pursue this ESD avenue. With letters of support from officials, individuals, industry and an offer from industry to help with technique information, this ESD designation was utilized and contracts were let in time to see this viable product come out while it was still of value. I have to say there was great cooperation from the local Forest Service crews and the weather to do the field work.

With the success of the Copper King ESD, the Sunrise Fire in Mineral County and the Sheep Gap Fire near Plains will utilize this means of getting in and salvage the fire area while the wood still has value. Once again it is due to the help of industry, elected officials, and local input as well as local forest service crews and rangers that see a value in timber and a strong local economy. There are two local groups that also need recognition with regard to the increased forest salvage and green timber activities on the Plains and Superior forests. Sanders County has a newly reformed Sanders Forest Coalition and Mineral County has the Mineral County Forest Coalition. These groups of individuals have been meeting monthly or bi-monthly to discuss timber sales, trails, firewood roads, and any issue that relates to public use of these lands. These are not Forest Service sponsored groups, but you could contact your local Forest Service for times and locations of these meetings.

My main purpose of this letter is to say, get or stay involved, many people have given up on the process of getting involved, feeling they are not being heard. This forest issue is an example of how local involvement can help. Go on field trips or write letters. I am not saying we have solved the whole issue of proper timber management, but we have started correcting a poor situation through positive local involvement.

Denley M. Loge,

Montana State Representative House District 14

 

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