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Public Meeting Draws Applause
by Craig Flentie, Lewistown Field Office
BLM forester Bruce Reid discusses roads, slopes, contracts, and forest health with audience members at a public meeting regarding timber downed by wind in the Judith Mountains this summer.
Photo by Jennifer Walker
The Lewistown Field Office recently hosted a public meeting to invite comments and ideas for treating about 200 acres of downed timber created recently by a significant wind event in the Judith Mountains.
Everything but the conclusion of this public meeting went pretty much along a straight line. For several months, the local media had helped spread the word about the wind damage and the fact that BLM would be asking the public for ideas about what to do with the approximately 1.5 million board feet of timber strewn about the landscape. Stan Benes, Willy Frank, Bruce Reid, Rod Sanders, and Jennifer Walker had discussed the issue with numerous publics.
The media distributed information about the meeting date, time and location; individuals previously involved in these discussions, area landowners, and interest groups were invited by mail.
During the meeting, BLM staff members kept their presentations short and to the point:
- Field Manager Stan Benes opened the meeting with a welcome and offered that the BLM felt the downed timber should be extracted while it has a commercial value, which would also reduce the chances of all this timber contributing to a catastrophic fire incident.
- Willy Frank, supervisory land use specialist, spoke briefly about the planning process BLM must follow when making such a decision.
- Clive Rooney of the Montana Department of Natural Resources added that the state would be logging a portion of an adjacent state parcel.
- Forester Bruce Reid discussed BLM’s ideas about letting a contract to remove the timber. He talked about the up-side and down-side of the roads necessary, the time required to complete the task, the approximate value of the timber, and the contract itself.
Audience members then offered their thoughts about the downed timber. From the discussion, it was easy to determine the public and BLM share concerns about how much road construction would be necessary and how to rehab those roads. However, the overall audience consensus supported BLM’s preference to remove the timber.
Then, as the meeting was ending, it fell somewhat out of character. The presenters were showered with applause!
Most BLMers are accustomed to standing their ground before a divided audience and responding to pointed questions. However, a round of applause seemed to bring the BLM staffers to a set of rosy-cheeked blushes and somewhat confused looks about how to say goodnight and find the door!
The BLM accepted comments on the project through October 17.