Friday, January 19, 2018

What is the cost and benefit of county tree-cutting?

I appreciate Steve Bue’s letters clarifying some points from the perspective of someone who plowed and graded roads and understood the perils of potential accidents and deer running out and branches scraping off mirrors of graders and plows.
I know of another man who lives in our neck of the woods who told us he never had an issue all the decades he plowed and graded along the West Rosebud and Fiddler Creek, but, as with all things, it depends upon the place and time and circumstances.
I also have no doubt the county can produce reams of paper from all manner of state and federal agencies about how roads should be maintained in optimum circumstances. The legality of maintaining the public rights of way is not the issue. The issues to me are cost and benefit. Is it necessary? More than 50 people signing a petition asking that the cutting be stopped was rendered less important than the comments of two that the commissioners heard from who favored cutting. Huh?
I have driven the road where the whole ruckus began — from South Fiddler to Fiddler to West Rosebud and onto Billings five days a week for 15 years.
Where the county completely clear cut on Fiddler Creek was not a place where there were accidents. No factual records were produced to show there was danger other than “a handful of complaints” about deer according to the road chief.
I submit there are more deer carcasses on the wide open roads of Fishtail to Nye and Absarokee to Columbus than you’ll ever see on the West Rosebud or Fiddler Creek roads.
It’s always difficult to assess whether something is worth doing when answers to questions about how much it is costing are never answered.
Do we want our county, which often pleads tight financial resources, spending money to send crews and equipment for weeks at a time to cut down trees along the remote rural roads instead of grading or plowing the roads?
Signs may be pricey, but speed limit, road condition and other warning signs are less costly than seven trucks, a dozen crew and mileage for weeks on end to cut trees that provide the beauty for many travelers.
I think it would be interesting to know if the county considered the value of the timber it was cutting and hauling away to burn, prior to a suggestion that perhaps the public might find use for the compost and logs?
Then the county road chief opined that the public was welcome to salvage the cut timber, but there was no program in place to create reasonable public access to the timber and compost, nor any calculation to determine the value, which might defray some of the expense to render trees into refuse.
And, if the worry is litigation, ponder what might happen if someone was injured loading logs at the county yard where the road chief said citizens came to collect the wood.
Dan Burkhart
Fishtail