Talks between Plum Creek Timber Co. and the U.S. Forest Service about longstanding road easements have raised concerns that the firm is preparing to convert large chunks of its forest holdings into residential real estate. Montana Sen. Jon Tester has asked the Forest Service to halt the talks until county governments and other stakeholders can weigh in.
Reciprocal agreements between the Forest Service and adjacent landowners spell out permitted uses of forest roads that cross property lines. County officials told Tester that they were worried that the agreements would be amended to allow use by residents of new subdivisions, increasing demand for public services.
The Forest Service maintains that Plum Creek has always had access rights for real estate development. A new draft agreement confirms those rights, as well as requiring private landowners to pay for upgrades of forest roads and keep them open to the public.