Bitterroot National Forest timber sales attract bids on second go-round
By PERRY BACKUS Ravalli Republic | Posted: Saturday, January 7, 2012 11:15 pm
HAMILTON – The Bitterroot National Forest made the adjustments it needed to entice loggers to take another look at a pair of timber sales no one wanted when they were first offered.
Even then, on the largest of the two – a 700,000-board-foot sale at Lake Como – only one person submitted a bid.
“We were thrilled we had one,” said Darby District Ranger Chuck Oliver.
When forest officials offered the two sales in the southern reaches of the Bitterroot in November, they didn’t get a single bid.
Oliver said local logging contractors told the agency the sales were a long way from mills and the list of restrictions, including winter logging, were too strict.
The Lake Como project is designed to remove beetle-killed pine and thin forests to help protect the remaining trees from further beetle infestations.
Since most of the trees to be harvested are located within the most popular national forest summer recreation area in the region, the challenge was getting the work done before campers started to arrive.
“We had hoped to get those trees out before the beetles started to fly again this summer,” Oliver said. “We wanted to get most of that accomplished this winter, but the contractors told us that was impossible because their crew numbers are down.”
The work this winter will focus on the boat launch and campgrounds. Work on the fringe areas will be completed later.
The Forest Service also agreed to drop the appraised value to minimal rates and increase the number of slash disposal sites on the sale.
Bob Walker of Darby purchased the sale.
Oliver has heard from locals concerned the upcoming timber sale will remove too many trees from the popular recreational area.
The agency followed the recommendations of Forest Service scientists in determining a strategy to give the remaining trees a fighting chance against almost certain beetle attacks in upcoming years, Oliver said.
“There’s no guarantee that it will work,” he said. “It was the best that they had to offer us.”
Oliver said recreation specialists returned to the site after the trees were initially marked.
“We wanted to be able to maintain as much as we could,” Oliver said.
In places where officials decided the proposed timber removal was too much, some trees were removed from the sale.
“There are a lot of trees up there that are marked that still have green needles, but they’ve been hit hard by beetles,” he said. “They are not going to survive. People can look at those and not realize they are basically already dead.”
The agency dropped the minimum bidding prices and extended contract terms on a second sale of already cut and stacked logs in the Sapphire Mountains. The Up Top logs were harvested last summer to build fire line around the 41 Complex fires.
Tricon Lumber of St. Regis purchased that sale. There were four bidders.
The reluctance of logging contractors to bid on sales in the southern Bitterroot has forest officials concerned.
The next sale the Bitterroot Forest plans to offer is in the West Fork. It is an estimated 5 million board feet.
“We were surprised that we only got one bid on Como after all the adjustments we made,” Oliver said. “The next one we have to offer is even further away.”