Ravalli County landowners with concerns about the health of their forested lands may have some help coming their way. The Hamilton Natural Resources and Conservation Services Field Office wants to hear from timberland owners who think they may have too many trees growing on their property.

Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Matt Anderson has signed the final Decision Notice (DN) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Darby Lumber Lands Project — Phase 2.

The decision authorizes the forest to move forward on the vegetation management, fuels reduction, and transportation system project encompassing approximately 27,453 acres in the South Fork Sleeping Child and Rye Creek drainages in the Sapphire Mountains east of Darby.

Phase 1 of the project was completed in 2016 and focused on improving watershed and stream health including reducing chronic sediment from an extensive road system built decades ago for timber management. It also created a sustainable motorized access system and loop-based motorized routes, including 44 miles of connector trails for motorcycle and ATV travel.

Phase 2 is a continuation of the original project and also incorporates vegetation management activities. The proposed action will:

* Improve watershed conditions through management of a suitable transportation system

* Improve forest health and reduce potential fire severity

* Provide timber products and related jobs

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The project also implements changes to access on existing roads and trails, storing and decommissioning unneeded roads and trails, building five new motorized connector trails and loop routes for ATV travel, and construction of several temporary roads.

Proposed treatments include commercial timber harvests, non-commercial thinning, and prescribed burning to improve forest health.

The project could begin as early as this fall and would provide 5.7 million board feet (1,200 truckloads) of timber to Montana sawmills.

The Darby Lumber Lands — Phase 2 Project was subject to public objection under Code of Federal Regulations §218. The Objection Reviewing Officer who reviewed the project found that it complied with all applicable laws and the Forest Plan.

The DN/FONSI are available online at www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=49700 and at the Darby Ranger District and Forest Supervisor’s Office in Hamilton.

For additional information contact Eric Winthers, District Ranger, Darby/Sula Ranger District at 406-821-3913.