ABOUT BITTERROOT HUNTING & TIMBER RETREAT
Bitterroot Hunting and Timber Retreat is located south of Missoula and east of Florence, adjacent to the Sapphire Mountain range in the Bitterroot Valley. In 30 minutes you can be in the city of Missoula, population ~73,000, which offers a thriving downtown community with local restaurants, shops and music venues. Missoula is home to The University of Montana, Snowbowl Ski Area and the Missoula International Airport. Ten miles west of Bitterroot Hunting and Timber Retreat, lays the town of Florence providing a warm welcome and easy access to amenities such as a gas station, grocery and hardware store and post office.
Previously this property was owned successively by the large timber corporations Champion International and Plum Creek Timber. It was intensively but professionally managed for long-term production of timber. To accomplish intensive timber management on the steep slopes, the companies built an elaborate road network that effectively accesses all portions of the ranch that are appropriate for timber production. Though these roads were likely constructed decades ago, they are in remarkably good condition. The granitic parent material is stable and not eroded to any significant degree. The road locations were well engineered to access, harvest and transport timber to market. Erosion control devices such as drive-through dips are well placed and continue to function. Thoughtfully placed gates have excluded vehicle access to most of the secondary roads, another factor in maintaining stable road surfaces. No significant erosion points that could potentially deliver sediment into the streams were noted. Though road intensity can be considered dense, it must be emphasized that all of these roads are well-constructed for management use into the future. The most salient driver of road degradation is public vehicle use which has been limited to the one main road loop that accesses the USFS trailhead at Eight Mile Saddle. Even so, that road is in good condition.
The road system on Bitterroot Hunting and Timber Retreat should be viewed as
an asset for future forest management operations.
The main water resource is Eight Mile Creek and Sluice Creek with a small trout fishery running east to west. This stream is in very good condition and supports a population of wild trout. Small feeder streams add to the creek flow, including the North Fork of Eight Mile and Sluice Creek. Small springs and seeps are scattered through the property.
The entire 10,806 +/- acre property was actively re-planted post harvest and now has well-established stands of Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, Western larch and Lodgepole pine and robust shrub community that supports elk, deer and moose in the winter and offers potential for longterm timber production. The current profile and structure of the forest is a direct result of past timber harvests, wildfire and tree planting. As stated, Unit 1 was actively managed by timber companies over decades. Forest management investment into infrastructure such as roads and stream crossings was extensive.
Accordingly, forest managers retrieved many millions of board feet of high-quality softwood timber. In the early 2000s, a large wildfire burned through the Eight Mile Creek drainage. A large portion of Unit 1 was burned. Observations indicate that forest managers immediately initiated large scale timber salvage harvests. Nearly all burned timber was removed. Fire-killed trees, if harvested in a timely manner, can produce good quality forest products.
It is also readily apparent that the managers followed the salvage operations with extensive tree planting in the most heavily impacted areas. Thousands of acres, often on very steep slopes were hand planted to Ponderosa Pine (PP),Western Larch (WL) and Lodgepole Pine (LPP) seedlings. The warmer, drier slopes were planted to PP; cooler moister slopes to WL and the higher elevation sites received LPP. Seedling survival and establishment was excellent and most of the heavily burned acres now support stands of robust young trees. Planted acreages can now be classed as fully stocked for the purpose of long-term forest management.
The fire intensity was somewhat variable across the landscape with the most comprehensive tree mortality occurring in the southeastern two-thirds of the ranch. The western and northwestern portion was less intensively burned and some areas were not burned at all.
For the purpose of more focused description and associated recommendations, the general ranch area can be separated into two units roughly divided by the Sluice Creek Road. Unit 1 lies to the south of Sluice Creek Road (6,566 +/- acres), and Unit 2 (apx. 4,200 acres), lies north and west of the road.
The property provides all the components for maintenance of these species – food, water, thermal and escape cover. Elk and deer can and do utilize nearly all the property while moose is likely more of a transient species. The robust shrub community along with desirable grasses on the warmer south and western aspect slopes can support the ungulates through all seasons. Winter use will be mostly limited to those slopes with nearby thermal cover provided by well-stocked, immature conifer stands. After years of permission – public hunting, the current owners enrolled the property in Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks block management for fall 2020 hunting season. This block management commitment can be removed by the new owners.