Stimulus funds set aside for forest roadwork


by Rob Chaney

Road crews soon will be busy along with foresters in western Montana's national forests, thanks to some recent federal stimulus allocations.

Statewide, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will deliver $31.4 million in roadwork on national forests. Most of that takes place in 12 western counties, including Missoula and Ravalli.

In addition, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation has up to $5 million in “Jump Start” dollars for forest restoration and fuels reduction work.

Most of the work is aimed at the wildland-urban interface, as designated by local governments. DNRC spokeswoman Paula Rosenthal said up to 8,000 acres could be treated with thinning, commercial harvest and brush disposal.

The DNRC is accepting proposals for those projects through July 10. Details on how to apply can be found on the Internet at Early funding consideration will go to project proposals received before June 17.

In the Missoula-headquartered Lolo National Forest, $5.2 million in ARRA funds will flow to projects in Sanders, Mineral, Powell and Missoula counties. That includes work on 275 miles of gravel roads.

In Ravalli County, the major effort involves reconditioning eight miles of Rye Creek Road in the Bitterroot National Forest. The Kootenai National Forest has several projects to reduce sediment runoff from outdated roads.

Outside Missoula, the money will pay for replacement of the Big Rock Creek bridge on the Thompson River Road, and numerous smaller efforts like gravel resurfacing, route marker placement, drainage improvements, and pavement overlays on parking lots and administrative sites.

Most of the work should be finished over the next two years.