The Bitterroot National Forest is asking for the public’s help in identifying people responsible for cutting down numerous green trees and signs at a popular recreational site.
There have been nine large green ponderosa pine trees cut down and taken away since January between the main Bass Creek and Larry Creek trailheads in the Bass Creek Recreational Area, said Stevensville District Ranger Steve Brown. Someone has also cut down and removed a couple of signs, including the exit-only sign at the Larry Creek horse trailer parking lot.
It is illegal to cut down live trees.
Personal use firewood permits only allow for the removal of downed timber or the cutting of standing dead trees. Firewood gathering is also prohibited in developed recreation sites including campgrounds, picnic areas, boat launches and trailheads. Anyone caught illegally cutting, damaging or removing timber from the National Forest faces citations and fines of up to $5,000.
“My biggest question is when were they doing this that no one saw them?” Brown asked. “Bass Creek gets a ton of use. We just drove by the parking lot and on a Wednesday afternoon there were 13 horse trailers in the parking lot.”
The Bitterroot Forest increased patrols of the popular recreation area after people began noticing the trees were being cut and removed, Brown said.
“We can’t be everywhere all the time,” he said.
Brown has heard of a few separate incidents of people cutting down green trees at other locations on the Bitterroot Forest, but nothing as concentrated as what’s occurring at Bass Creek.
Following a recent snowstorm, Brown said a recreation tech visited the site on Friday and returned Saturday to find two more trees cut down and sawdust on top of the snow.
There was no indication of machinery being used to load logs at the site. Since the green trees hold a lot of water and are heavy, Brown said it appears the logs are being cut into firewood-size lengths before being hauled away.
“Ponderosa Pine is not good firewood to begin with and it’s even less desirable when it’s green,” Brown said. “Other than firewood, I can’t think of anything else people would be using it for.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the Stevensville District Rangers Office at 406-777-5461.