Counties push for increased wildfire salvages

Northwest Montana’s county commissioners want to see more fire-scorched timber salvaged from Lolo National Forest.

The Forest Service is racing to complete the assessments, environmental reviews and public review processes required for area salvage operations to proceed. If timber isn’t cut within one year of a wildfire, weather and insect damage can render it useless.

In Lolo, the agency has proposed salvage operations on almost 4,900 acres that were burned by the Sheep Gap and Sunrise Fires. Before the public comment period closed Dec. 1, the commissioners of Mineral, Lincoln, and Sanders counties sent a letter to the Forest Service, asking that it “maximize the number of acres designated for restoration and salvage.” They also argue that the harvest proposed by the Forest Service could be doubled.

These leaders say they appreciate the Forest Service’s efforts, but they want to ensure that their counties recoup as much value as possible from the remaining trees.