In the year 2020, the Gold butterfly Project was pulled from consideration after lawsuits were filed against the 2019 Bitterroot National Forest project management plan. The complaints were directed at the plan's proposals for old growth trees. Forest Supervisor Matt Anderson directed a team to revise the project.

A new Draft Decision of Record is the result of that work and Anderson has selected Alternative 2, which allows old growth stands to be managed using the "best available scientific information." Public Affairs Officer Tod McKay noted the new Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement updates and redefines terms of the 2019 Gold Butterfly EIS. The project will now "retain old growth status in all treatment areas."

The management area is east of Corvallis in the Sapphire Mountains between St. Clair Creek on the south and Burnt Fork Creek on the north. The Bitterroot Community Wildfire Protection Plan has identified the area as a "high priority" for fuel reduction in the Wildland Urban Interface.

McKay wrote that 90 percent of the proposed treatment will be in areas that have dense pockets of dead and dying trees from insects and disease. The trees have been attacked by mountain pine beetle, Douglas-fir bark beetle, dwarf mistletoe and western spruce budworm. The Forest Service is planning commercial timber harvest, non-commercial thinning and prescribed burning.

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The goal is to improve forest health and its defense against insects, disease and fire. There would also be water quality improvement and better habitat in meadows, aspen and whitebark pine. Objections to the draft decision can be made by those who previously submitted comments on the Gold Butterfly project. There is a month-long comment period.

Objections can be mailed to USDA Forest Service, Northern Region, ATTN: Objection Reviewing Officer, Building 26 Fort Missoula Road, Missoula MT 59804. Online objections go to: appeals-northern-regional-office@usda.gov. For more information, call the Stevensville Ranger District at 406 777-5461 or email steve.brown@usda.gov.

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