The Bitterroot National Forest is inviting the public to review and make comments on a watershed improvement and travel management project on the Darby Ranger District.

The Darby Lumber Lands project is designed to improve watershed and stream health while also creating a sustainable motorized access system, and loop-based motorized routes that encompasses approximately 22,627 acres east of Darby.

"Darby Lumber Lands Watershed Improvement and Travel Management Project addresses recently acquired lands in the upper Rye Creek and Sleeping Child drainages," said Ed Snook, a hydrologist on the Bitterroot National Forest, and an interdisciplinary team leader for the project. "What we acquired was a set of sections that were formerly owned by different private lumber concerns. The road systems in them don't meet up to forest service standards."

There are approximately 275 miles of roads and 15 miles of single-track trails within the project area. Snook adds that there’s a lot of duplicate roads and erosion going on due to both the design, and location of the roads in addition to the lack of maintenance. But it’s not just roads that make up the purpose of the project.

"We've got a proposal along with eliminating some of the unneeded roads to allow for use of those roads by OHV's less than 15 inches in width on certain selected road prisms," Snook said. "We are trying to improve the access in there for recreationists by providing some loop routes."

In addition to improved recreation access and improvements on the current road system, the lumber lands project is also looking to address long-term access needs within the project area.

Public comments are now being accepted through January 15, 2014. Submit comments to Chuck Oliver, District Ranger, Darby Ranger Disttrict, 712 Main, Darby, Montana, 59829, or electronically via Word (.doc) or rich text format (.rtf) to comments-northern-bitterroot-darby@fs.fed.us.

For more information about the project, contact Ed Snook at (406) 363-7103 or esnook@fs.fed.us.