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LOLO – A salvage logging project is underway near McClain Creek on acreage burned last summer, a project to rehabilitate the woods and help fund Montana’s schools.

Life is beginning to emerge again in the charred earth left behind after the Lolo Peak Fire burned so furiously last summer. Here, you can still smell the burn, but you can also hear birds and the wildlife.

There is life left in the trees underneath the blackened bark, salvageable logs about to be harvested by the Montana DNRC.

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“You’d be amazed. You get them to the mill, get them to the barker and there’s still good wood inside so there’s still value to the wood,” said Thayer Jacques, the Montana DNRC’s forester in Hamilton.

There are more than a thousand acres in this particular project with more than 400 acres marked for harvest. It’s estimated there is more than 2 million board feet here, providing anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000 for the common schools trust.

“The main thing here is if we just allowed this to go, all these dead trees would eventually fall over. Then you’re at a threat for re-burn and not only that, we’ve lost value to these trees,” Jacques said. “Those are school trust lands so all funds and monies and proceeds from this sale goes to the common school trust K-12. So part of my responsibility as a land manager for DNRC and on these trust lands is to produce some income for the school trust so if we were to let these trees go, we would lose all that value to the school trust.”

The project aims to protect wildlife. They’re leaving two-trees-per-acre for the cavity dwellers, and two entire sections won’t be touched to protect the habitat of the black-backed woodpecker.

Trees not suitable for salvage will get knocked down to become part of the forest floor. Without a harvest, the trees create hazards and could re-burn if fires return to this area again. The new roads will stay too, but will soon be covered in grass.

“We built about three miles of roads to be kept as maintenance and for future projects when the next harvest would be here. In several decades down the road, the roads will be here for the next forester.

Jacques says the DNRC received overwhelmingly positive comments about this project which should be done by December.

Pyramid Mountain Lumber of Seeley Lake won the bid to process the logs.

Reporting by Jill Valley for MTN News

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