(STEVENSVILLE)- Logging has started in the popular Bass Creek Recreation Area, as Bitterroot National Forest managers use selective thinning to try and control the spread of the mountain pine beetle.
With a few pieces of low-impact logging equipment, Pyramid Lumber started thinning trees here at Bass Creek Friday. The goal of Bitterroot National Forest is to make this a healthier stand by removing smaller "understory" trees, which become like condos for beetles as they spread through the woods.
"Our two high use areas, Lake Como and Bass Creek, get about 300,000 or visitors more annually. This site here, about 50,000 or more come and use this every year," says Bitterroot National Forest spokesman Tod McKay. "We're talking horse back riders, hikers, mountain bikers, campers. This is a really popular high-use area. So this kind of work is critical. If we don't do this kind of work and mountain pine beetle comes in and has the same impact that's had in different areas on the forest people won't be able to use this. Because it won't be safe."
Stevensville District Ranger Dan Ritter says protecting the popular spot is a top priority.
"This one, in particular is at risk because there are so many trees per acre. it's an overstocked stand. They're all about the same age. So by thinning this out we'll provide a more resilient forest that the bugs won't get in here and kill everything. Which would be the worst case scenario."
Foresters are selectively removing only certain trees. And once the equipment has gone through its easy to see the difference between the original dense stand, and the logged area where the pines have more room to thrive. The project will last for the next several weeks.