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Falling Trees Force Montana Campground Closures

August 4, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

A handful of U.S. Forest Service campgrounds near Georgetown Lake in Montana have been shut down after several strong wind storms swept through and toppled numerous trees, The Montana Standard reported.

The Piney and Cable campgrounds will remain closed through the season while workers take out hazardous trees, said Leona Rodreick, spokeswoman for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, which is located due west of Yellowstone National Park.

“We realize that people aren’t happy that we’ve closed a couple of their favorite places to camp, but we’ve got to look at the bigger picture and make sure that we’re providing a safe place for people to go,” she said.

Three RVs, a boat and two boat trailers have been struck by falling trees at Piney, said Charlene Bucha Gentry, Pintler district ranger. And just over the weekend, a tree fell and damaged a latrine in the campground.

Rodreick said the Forest Service has worked over the past couple years to clear dead and dying trees to make campgrounds safer. But the thinning also leaves the remaining trees more prone to falling.

“They’re tall, slender, long and they’re fairly close to each other, so they kind of rely on each other to keep them straight and stable,” she said. “Once you remove some of the trees, they’re not as stable as they once were.” In addition, the small Canyon Creek campground west of Melrose is shut down while a crew removes trees. And the public has fewer choices because of scheduled maintenance and improvements at the Grasshopper campground and the Notch, West Fork and May Creek cabins on the forest.

The closures due to falling trees are just part of the tough year the Forest Service has had to deal with this year. Rodreick said land managers have had several washed out roads and other damage from the heavy snowpack and wet, cold spring.

Bucha Gentry said while visiting Piney on Tuesday, she saw numerous trees that had fallen over the weekend. Trees were lying on picnic tables and fire pits.

The trees falling are not dead, but rather green trees. She agreed that while it’s frustrating for people, the closures are warranted.

“It’s not like one tree came down one time,” she said. “We have multiple trees coming down in multiple events.” And while the solution seems obvious to continue removing trees, Bucha Gentry said because the trees are still alive and green, it’s not that simple. She said each site requires its own treatment, but it’s difficult to tell which trees must come out with the wet soil conditions this year.

“They look like they should be a stable stand and that’s what’s hard to figure out,” she said. “I don’t have a crystal ball to say what’s going to come down.” People with plans to visit or stay at recreational sites on the forest are encouraged to call the local ranger station to get the latest information on closures.

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