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Mineral Co. pushes Forest Service for projects, jobs

Published On: Apr 11 2014 04:59:53 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 11 2014 06:00:56 PM MDT
SUPERIOR, Mont. -

Timber sales in Montana are down. It’s little wonder Mineral County residents say their patience is running thin. They want jobs, and made that clear at a heated meeting with a new forest supervisor Friday.

“Somebody in the Forest Service gets to make a decision that we can't even raise our families on,” said Mineral County Commissioner Roman Zylawy. “That's where we want the interest to be, pounded in your mind when you're in Missoula thinking about projects for us.”

Zylawy’s message was directed at Regional Forester Faye Krueger and Lolo Forest Supervisor Tim Garcia.

Nearly 100 people filed in for the Mineral County Commissioner meeting Friday, many of them frustrated.

“People here have resources; they'll put them on the ground to get things done. We just want our forest back,” said Mineral County resident Kevin Chamberlin.

Much of that frustration stems from a need for jobs in Mineral County, and for many the answer is logging.

Numbers shown at the meeting didn't give much hope. According to a U.S. Forest Service report, in 2012-2013 timber sales in Northern Idaho were up 18 percent, while western Montana sales were down 42 percent.

“I'd like to see some sound, feasible reasons why they went up 18 and we've gone down 42 percent,” shouted one resident.

Krueger told the group she wants to focus on solutions, but can't do it alone.

“How do we get this moving and how do you want to participate?” she asked. “I'm saying, we're sitting here going, we're in.”

So the next step? Find some solutions. Try to get projects moving. Like the Cedar-Thom -- a proposed forest restoration project southwest of Superior. It’s a project residents have been waiting for since 2009.

They also want to start a discussion about salvaging logs left behind from last summer's West Mullan Fire. It tore through more than 6,000 acres.

New Lolo Forest Service Supervisor Tim Garcia has been on the job less than a week, though he promised to work to move things along.

“It affects everyone in this community, and the last thing we want to do is negatively impact communities,” he said.

But people in this community are losing patience.

“Do we got another 8 or 9 years? I'll be gone and half these people will be out of work,” said one resident.

The Cedar-Thom project was placed on the Forest Service priority list in 2013; it was created in 2009. That project proposes forest restoration activities, fuels reduction and recreation enhancements, in the Cedar and Thompson Creek drainages, southwest of Superior. The proposal covers nearly 60,000 acres.

Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing the plan and doing a biological assessment before it can move forward.