- Your Town
To the News,
I am writing to raise several concerns regarding the Forest Service’s intention to harvest a large portion of the forest in the Red Lodge Creek drainage south of Luther.
I understand the concern for fire and am aware of the possibility for Pine Bark beetle infestation but I question the wisdom of purposely creating a similar landscape level change in order to mitigate one that is not here and unknown.
Indeed, while the Pine Bark beetle is endemic to this ecosystem and exists in isolated pockets, it has not invaded or expanded to a threatening level. The forest appears to have a resistance to the outbreak that should be carefully studied before we act on unsubstantiated assumptions.
While many forests in Montana are susceptible to catastrophic fire events I question whether this area has a similar risk. It is a north facing forest that usually enjoys greater than 20 inches of moisture annually.
The decomposition rate in the forest is relatively rapid reducing the accumulation of fuels and the widely scattered open meadows, aspen stands, and steep topography create natural fire breaks that could limit fire spread. These factors, along with the Forest Service’s admission that this project will actually increase the threat of fire over the short term (5-10 years) and may increase the likelihood of ignition due to logging activity and greater access, make me question the purported value of this plan.
Beyond the question of the validity of the management assumptions I have significant concerns regarding the road development that will be necessary to carry out this project.
The maps that are available do not honestly represent the current road infrastructure or the extent of sensitive streams that will be affected. FS System Road 21415 for example, is listed on the maps as the same level of roadway as FS Road 2141 (the Red Lodge Creek loop road). FS 21415 is a trail through the forest and would require total road building to function even remotely as a road.
Indeed, on the reviewed three alternatives in the 2008 Beartooth Ranger district’s Travel Management Plan it was to be designated as a “non-motorized trail”. It was only after “internal discussions” with the MT DNRC that the Forest service “modified” alternative B and designated this trail as a system road for administrative use.
Steve Running, a Nobel laureate, climate change scientist, spoke in Red Lodge last year. He addressed many climate concerns regarding fire, beetle infestation, atmospheric carbon, etc… He left his audience with a number of actions that we all can take to help slow the change to our climate. First on the list was “ do not cut down any live trees”.