Montana/Dakotas

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Limekiln Blowdown

photo and story by Craig Flentie, Lewistown Field Office

trail through downed timber

Pat Harty, a BLM fuels specialist, examines a portion of the Limekiln Loop Trail after it had been cleared of downed timber. 

The “wind event” this past June at the head of Limekiln Canyon in the Judith Mountains probably lasted less than a minute, but it left behind about 200 acres of downed timber on public land managed by the BLM and made a portion of the Limekiln Loop Trail absolutely impassable.

Since then, the BLM forestry and fuels staff (in part, Bruce Reid, Jennifer Walker, and Pat Harty), members of the Central Montana Fire Zone, and the Judith Basin Backcountry Horsemen have been scrambling to make the scenic hiking trail usable again and to address the long term forest health issues created by about 1.5 million board feet of downed and scattered timber.

The downed timber has been cleared from parts of the existing trail and BLM staffers recently completed re-routing a detour along that portion of the trail that cannot be cleared in a timely manner.

With the clearing and re-routing work completed, hikers can once again enjoy the entire loop trail, although extra precautions need to be taken on about a mile of the detoured trail along the ridge that separates Limekiln Canyon and Ruby Gulch. 

The BLM and the Montana Department of Natural Resources are working on a longer term plan to address wind damage and several other forest health issues in the Limekiln and Ruby Gulch areas. 

“One of our major concerns is the high fire risk this blow down presents to several drainages in the Judith Mountains. We have some ideas, but certainly want the benefit of public involvement before we determine how to approach these issues. We’ll be hosting a public scoping meeting in mid to late September and will be advertising the date, time and location as quickly as we have the details in place,” offered Bruce Reid, a BLM forester in Lewistown.