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The Forest Service’s Gold-Butterfly Project is going to destroy Willow Creek Road.

The project affects over 55,000 acres in the Sapphires, from east of Stevensville to southeast of Hamilton, and is the largest logging project in the Bitterroot in decades, all funneled through Willow Creek Road.

Each loaded logging truck does as much road damage as 4,000-7,000 cars. With more than 7,000 truckloads projected to be driven out in the next 8 years, the county can expect at least 20-40 times more road damage than normal (not counting trucks going in, etc). The obvious conclusion is that the road will require repeated maintenance to remain safely driveable.

Based on a recent county road contract, repaving Willow Creek Road just one time would cost the county roughly one million dollars. The county commissioners officially commented to the Forest Service last summer that the county cannot afford to make these kinds of repairs during and after the project.

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The Gold-Butterfly plan takes no responsibility for any of this and states, “Road maintenance activities by Ravalli County are expected to occur as needed to maintain the road at the desired standard.”

If you object to having your county taxes raised to support a timber sale (that will only benefit out-of-county mills), or if you live on or regularly use Willow Creek Road, please don’t ignore this issue. Contact your commissioners and encourage them to be strong in their upcoming negotiations with the Forest Service on this issue.

— Gail and Stephen Goheen, Hamilton

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