Roaring Lion Sawtooth Trail

Bitterroot Forest spokesman Tod McKay walks down the Sawtooth Trail in September to take a look at a bridge that will have to be replaced following the Roaring Lion fire last summer.

Salvage logging could get underway by the middle of January around three trailheads burned over by this summer’s Roaring Lion fire.

The Bitterroot National Forest announced Friday that it will move forward with a plan to harvest 45 acres of fire-killed trees around the Roaring Lion, Sawtooth and Ward Mountain trailheads.

Darby District Ranger Eric Winthers said the plan calls for advertising the salvage sale over the next few weeks, with bids closing on Jan. 5.

“Once we made a decision on the high bidder, they could start operation in the middle of January,” Winthers said. “They could complete the work this winter provided the weather remains cold and snowy.”

The logging is being done in the winter months to reduce impacts on soils. All of the work will be accomplished by ground-based logging methods. No temporary roads will be built.

The three trailheads have been closed since the fire to protect the public from the large number of hazardous trees killed by the 8,700-acre fire that started July 31st.

They will remain closed until the logging is completed.

“We are hoping to open the trailheads to the public this spring after the logging operation is done,” he said.

The Bitterroot Forest received 89 public comments on the salvage project.

“Most people wanted us to do more salvage logging, but that wasn’t practical considering the timeline,” Winthers said.

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The salvage sale is expected to produce about 100 truckloads of logs.

Bitterroot Forest officials are continuing to work with litigants on the Westside Collaborative Vegetation Management Project, which proposes to thin national forest lands adjacent to lands burned by the Roaring Lion Fire.

Fred Rohrbach and Bitterroot LLC filed a lawsuit July 27 in Missoula District Court that claimed the Forest Service violated the Healthy Forest Restoration Act by failing to properly collaborate with local residents.

Rohrbach was opposed to a proposal to build 3.8 miles of new road and a bridge over Camas Creek. The road would have been built yards from Rohrbach’s home.

“We’re still working to try to resolve those issues,” Winthers said. “We want to try to settle the lawsuit before we start any work.”