Missoula Smokejumpers Volunteer for Hazard Tree Clean-up at Missouri River Campground
When Central Montana District Manager Stan Benes needed help with clearing dangerous branches and trees at a remote campsite, he found some uniquely qualified volunteers to do the job.
Monument Manager Mike Kania coordinated the plan for early September. Supervisory Outdoor Recreation Planner Mark Schaefer and River Ranger Joe Lyon met the group and transported them by jet boat to Hideaway river boat camp.
The smokejumpers surveyed the site with a critical eye. The small campground, only accessible by the river, was heavily forested with cottonwoods reaching as high as 60 feet. Nearly every tree in the grove had numerous dead and dying limbs at every level. It was these “widow makers” and the hazards they create for recreational users that got the smokejumpers’ attention.
Led by 20-year veteran smokejumper and arbor specialist Boyd Burtch, the crew wasted no time in “gearing up” and scrambling expertly into the treetops. Working throughout the day and most of the next, the smokejumpers, with the help of the BLM staff, cleared nearly every tree of hazards. Several trees that proved to be severely dangerous were expertly felled, limbed and bucked into convenient campfire-sized pieces along with the dropped widow makers, then neatly stacked at various locations for public use.
"These guys are consummate professionals," commented Schaefer. "Joe and I are honored to be in their presence and to assist them in their effort to help us out. Knowing what they do in their primary mission, and having them volunteer to come out here and help us on their "down time" is indicative of the caliber of people we know as smokejumpers. The extraordinary professionalism, positive attitude, competence and sheer guts it takes to do work like this is highly impressive and I look forward to continuing this partnership in the coming seasons."
Considering the number of remote campsites along the river with similar issues, the success of this first mission may be the precursor for many more to come.
-Mark Schaefer, Supervisory Outdoor Recreation Planner for the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument