Bitterroot Valley residents are expressing support for the Bitterroot National Forest to update its management practices to cope with fire risk, healthy forests and climate change.
But many are also skeptical, urging the agency to add more detail to the Draft Bitterroot Front Plan . The largest turnout yet capped the final in a series of public hearings to gather early input on the Front Plan in Hamilton on Tuesday evening.
The plan is a new attempt by Bitterroot National Forest managers to take a broader, more comprehensive look at management of the lands lying along the west side of the valley between developing areas and the wilderness boundary in Idaho.
US Forest Service staff would like to come up with a way to have a management plan that works on a broader scale for timber management, wildlife habitat, fire prevention and recreation, instead of isolating specific areas.
Many at the meeting were supportive, although some advocated for more caution, pointing to problems like cutting old growth timber and building roads, which could impact water quality with sediment when they aren't used.
"And the trouble with having those roads, a lot of these roads in storage, is that they are not maintained and are still producing, and actively generating sediment," Stevensville resident Jim Rokosh said.
There's no immediate action anticipated on the Bitterroot Front Plan with USFS staffers saying that it will take several months to review all the comments before deciding the next steps.
You can learn more about the proposed plan at the Bitterroot National Forest website .