Fodder for fuel breaks: Project would remove vegetation along Forest Service roads

The project would transform miles of habitat adjacent to existing Forest Service roads in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest into fuel breaks.

The breaks could feature “up to 3,000 contiguous acres and a maximum width of 1,000 feet.”

The Forest Service says mechanical treatments, hand-thinning and prescribed burns would reduce vegetative fuel loads along roads in project areas.

One Anaconda man calls it overkill.

“This is the most invasive, consequential project the Forest Service has had in this system for 20 years,” said Chris Marchion, a longtime member of the board for the Montana Wildlife Federation and member of the Anaconda Sportsman’s Club.

The project could reduce security for elk and other wildlife, he said.

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Forest Service roads in the vicinity of Georgetown Lake, the East Fork Reservoir, upper Rock Creek, Old Baldy Mountain and west of the town of Boulder would be targeted for reduction of roadside fuels described as hazardous. The roads would still function as roads.

The Forest Service said the goals would include boosting protection from high-intensity wildfires for communities, private lands and infrastructure and increasing safety for firefighters.

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