FS gathers comments for annual projects in Madison County

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is seeking public comment on a bevy of projects slated for this coming year on the Madison Ranger District.

The projects include everything from aspen regeneration in the Gravelly Mountains, to trail work in the Tobacco Root Mountains to stock water improvements in the Snowcrest Mountains.

“This is an opportunity for people to indicate support or any concerns they might have that we could address,” said Madison District Ranger Sue Heald.

The aspen release project slated for this year encompasses about 500 acres of aspen clones in the Gravelly and Tobacco Root Mountains, Heald said. The project is essentially thinning the conifers out of the aspens to improve the health of the aspen.

The thinning would be done largely by summer fire crews, she said. The cut conifers would either be scattered or piled and burned depending on the location.

In a similar project in the Cliff Lake area, the Forest Service is looking to not only address aspen health, but also the health of old-growth Douglas fir trees, by thinning ladder fuels from around the trees to help make them more resistant to fire and alleviate some of the competition for water and nutrients.

“Those large old trees are something that’s becoming more rare on the landscape,” Heald said. “This is an attempt to give them a little extra opportunity to sustain them for a longer period of time.”

The aspen projects illustrate a priority in the forest plan to maintain aspen stands on the landscape, she said.

“Aspen is just great wildlife habitat for game birds and song birds,” Heald said.

Without intervention, aspen stands would naturally give way to conifer stands, she said. Before fire was suppressed on the landscape, aspen stands would be the first trees back after a fire. Then Douglas firs or lodgepole pines would eventually replace them.

With fire suppression, there are less natural disturbances like fire to provide for new aspen stands, Heald said. So the agency has to go in and manually preserve and enhance aspen forests.

“We’re interceding in that process to keep aspen on the landscape,” she said.

Past projects similar to this have had good results.

“It seems to cause the remaining aspen to put up more sprouts and just remain healthier without that competition,” Heald said.

Other projects slated for this field season and open for public comment are:

East Fork Blacktail Trail reroute, which would involve rerouting around overly steep sections of trail in order to reduce erosion and improve trail safety and utility.

Cherry/Morgan and Buck Ridge Trail realignment, which would reroute sections of three all-terrain vehicle trails in order to reduce grades, improve trail utility, enhance public safety, and reduce resource impacts associated with poor drainage on steep slopes. Work is proposed for the Cherry Creek trail #6364, Morgan Gulch trail #6363, and the Buck’s Nest trail #6028.

Baldwin Parks Trail development and reroute, which would start from near the Baldwin Park Trail #6424 a route would be marked along an old abandoned trail on the north side of North Meadow Creek. This old trail ties in with an existing system trail, the Bow String Trail #6312. The distance from the Baldwin Park Trail to the Bow String Trail is approximately two miles. A reroute of approximately a half-mile of Trail #6424 near Lower Twin Lake would also be part of the project. These trail segments would be for non-motorized use.

The Crow Creek crossing and Lone Butte crossing projects would consist of two projects proposed to construct a total of three hardened stream crossings for livestock on tributaries of the Red Rock River. Existing cattle crossings would be reshaped and armored with rock to reduce sediment delivery into the creek from cattle use. Jackleg fences would be installed at each crossing.

The Crow Creek pipeline project would install a water distribution pipeline in two pastures of the Pole Long Creek cattle allotment in the southwestern Gravelly Mountains.  A headbox would be installed on a spring, and approximately 1.25 miles of pipeline would be buried from the spring to two new watering troughs. The project would provide water to cattle in the uplands and reduce their impact on the creeks in these two pastures.

The Hogback pipeline and fence project would install a headbox on a spring in the Hogback Pasture of the Snowcrest Creek cattle allotment in the Snowcrest Mountain Range. The pipeline would be buried and extend approximately one-half mile to an existing trough.  A barbed wire fence would be erected around the spring area. The project would allow cattle to access water in the uplands and reduce their impact on the creeks in the area.

The district proposes to open two small areas to personal use post and pole harvest, one in the Bogus Basin area (Standard Creek, Gravelly Mountains) and the other in the Charo area (end of North Meadow Creek Road, Tobacco Root Mountains). By purchasing a permit, the public would be allowed to remove live lodgepole pine trees up to 6.5 inches in diameter in these areas. A temporary road of about a quarter-mile would be required for the Charo unit. The areas cover a total of approximately 100 acres.

For additional information and maps contact the Madison Ranger District at (406) 682-4253.  Comment letters should be addressed to:  Madison Ranger District, 5 Forest Service Road, Ennis, MT 59729.

Comments must be postmarked by Jan. 19.

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