Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials will use a windfall in logging receipts to expand thinning work on a Bitterroot Valley wildlife management area.
FWP Forester Jason Parke said another 127 acres will be added to the project on the Three Mile Wildlife Management Area.
As a result, a total of 350 acres of elk winter range will be thinned to encourage growth of more forage.
The additional 127 acres were initially analyzed in the environmental analysis for the project, but were dropped following concerns that it wouldn’t be economically feasible to get that work completed, Parke said.
The bid for the project came in twice the minimum amount allowed under the contract.
The Missoula-based Salmon River Wood Inc. bid $10.07 per ton. The minimum bid allowed under contract was $5.
The timber will go to either Pyramid Mountain Lumber in Seeley Lake or the pulp operation in Bonner.
That additional funding allowed the state to complete some work in an area that included aspen stands and thickets of smaller evergreens that would have to be sold as pulp. There were also some open grassland meadows that were being encroached by pine and fir trees.
“We would like to remove some of those trees to improve the bunch grass that is growing on those sites,” Parke said.
The state received two bids on the sale that is expected to produce about 550,000 board feet of timber, or about 120 loads on a log truck.
While the timber market isn’t great right now, Parke said there is a scarcity of logs that drive stumpage costs up.
Parke said people should start seeing logging trucks in the Three Mile area either by the end of this week or next week.
“The weather has been really favorable,” he said. “If it stays like this, they should be done in maybe a month and a half.”
Parke said the public will like what they see when the wildlife management area reopens next spring.
“I think it’s going to look good,” he said. “It’s a similar prescription throughout. The timber is really dense in an area where historically it was more open. The primary goal is to enhance forage production. There should be a lot more grass.”
“Elk are the primary reason we are doing this,” Parke said. “This is an elk winter range.”