The jungle of accumulated deadfall and overgrown forests on the northern edges of Downey Mountain are a disaster waiting to happen, Hamilton resident Vito Ciliberti said Tuesday.
He urged the Ravalli County commission to include that area when it makes its recommendations on how the U.S. Forest Service should prioritize its management of the Bitterroot National Forest.
“Those fire-prone areas adjacent to Hamilton need special scrutiny,” Ciliberti said.
On Tuesday, the Ravalli County commission began the process of identifying projects on the Bitterroot National Forest it will recommend as priorities for forest management and restoration.
By Friday, it hopes to have something to send to an interim legislative committee currently working to compile a statewide list for submission to Gov. Steve Bullock.
All of it is part of a new process outlined in the new federal farm bill that offers governors the opportunity to offer advice to the U.S. Forest Service on where future management efforts should be focused.
In April, Bullock asked the agency to concentrate its restoration efforts on 5.1 million acres in Montana that are considered by some to be most prone to insect damage over the next 15 years.
A working group of the bipartisan Environmental Quality Council is seeking specific information from counties on where some of those projects might occur.
The Ravalli County commissioners met with a small group of local citizens to begin gathering information on its recommendation to the working group.
The timeframe is tight.
The working group needs the county’s recommendations by Friday.
After hearing ideas from five residents – and no input from Bitterroot Forest officials due to confusion over scheduling – the commission opted to continue the meeting to Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The ideas presented Tuesday were diverse.
Julie Schram of the Selway-Bitterroot Backcountry Horsemen asked for the commission to include a pack bridge over Roaring Lion Creek.
Currently, Schram said the crossing over the creek is dangerous for horsemen. The backcountry horsemen organization has spent hundreds of hours repairing the Sawtooth Trail and she said it would be nice if people could access it.
“The Forest Service wanted to take it off the map before we worked on it,” she said. “It would be nice if there was a safe bridge crossing there so people could safely enjoy it.”
Stewart Wilson of Corvallis is the director of a nonprofit organization called Western Montana Community Partners that is interested in continuing consideration of the Bitterroot Resort project.
That organization has identified five drainages in the proposed resort area where the forest has almost reclaimed some of the roads, he said.
The drainages are located on both the Bitterroot and Lolo national forests.
Wilson said that organization would like to see the area selectively thinned before it is adversely affected.
Bill Grasser of the Lost Trail Ski Area said he would like the see the Forest Service remember the people who live here in its management considerations.
“I’ve been to a lot of meetings where everyone talks about bull trout, lynx and goshawks,” Grasser said. “I’d like to hear someone talking about the needs of the people who live here.”
When he moved to the valley in 1967, Grasser said there were four lumber mills in Darby. Now, there are none.
“I just wish they would pay more attention to the needs of the local citizens than they do to their directions from Washington,” he said. “Their reputation and future would be greatly enhanced if they decided to work more closely with the locals.”