Pyramid Lumber started logging at the Bass Creek Recreation Area near Stevensville. Trees are being thinned to give remaining stands better protection against pine beetles.
An Idaho man appealed the sale last year, saying it failed to analyze the "natural resource biodiversity" of the area.
After review, the sale was finally approved.
Crews will log 3 million board feet -- or 1,100 truckloads -- in one of the Bitterroot's most popular recreation areas.
It's a fairly healthy forest, but beetles surround it on all sides.
Just about every other tree is marked for harvest.
"By providing more sunlight," said Stevensville District Ranger Dan Ritter, "and more nutrients we have a more vigorous tree that can fend off beetle attacks."
Foresters said if pine beetles do infest the rec area without safeguards, all the trees could die.
"So this way we have control," said Ritter, "the beetles are very indiscriminate."
Trees destined for the mill are about 100 years old. Crews are using high tech equipment that takes far fewer workers, and much less time.
A feller buncher was busy Friday morning.
"He can grab bunches of trees and handle them effectively," said timber sale administrator Pat McKinnon, "and get them on the ground with very little breakage."
Logs are sorted. A machine removes limbs.
"It can process four different species of trees to different log lengths and different specifications," said McKinnon.
When the harvest is done, the recreation area will certainly be more open and will probably have a different feel from what people are used to, but remaining trees will have more room to grow.
Retired forest service planner Dick Artley appealed the Bass Creek sale.
Artley said, "I don't think there should be any logging on public land because there's no shortage of wood."
"Pine beetles are a natural disturbance event," said Artley, "unless beetles are killing trees near the wildland urban interface then let it happen. It's been going on for millions of years."