Big Sky Roundup

Gianforte announces agreements for active forest management

By: - July 28, 2021 5:25 pm

A view of the Robertson Draw fire near Red Lodge (Photo via Darrell Ehrlick for the Daily Montanan).

Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Wednesday that agreements of the cross-boundary, active management projects associated with the Montana Forest Action Plan have been signed and completed, according to a news release from the Governor’s Office.

“This fire season has proven to all Montanans the importance of active forest management to reduce wildfire risk,” Gianforte said in a statement. “These 14 active management projects across the state will create more resilient forests, improve wildlife habitat, increase recreational opportunities, and support local economies with good-paying jobs in the forest products industry.”

Projects were chosen for funding based on their alignment with the goals and strategies of the recently completed Montana Forest Action Plan, the news release said.

To help reduce wildfire risk across the state and improve forest health, the State of Montana committed $4.5 million from the fire suppression account and received $500,000 in grant funds from the USDA Forest Service, the news release said.

With the project agreements now signed, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) will work to allocate funds and execute the contracts.

“Just like fire, forest health problems don’t stop at fence lines,” Gianforte said in the news release. “It’s critical that we continue to work together and partner across ownership boundaries to manage our forests so we can help protect our communities, infrastructure, and natural resources.”

The names of the selected projects, their general locations, and the amount of funding awarded are the following, according to the Governor’s Office:

Bozeman Municipal Watershed Cross-Boundary Forest Collaboration Project

Project Area: Bozeman

Amount Awarded: $350,000.00

Project Description: The proposed work area of this project includes municipal watersheds and municipal drinking supply infrastructure. It is located entirely in the WUI. This project will reduce the potential severity of a wildfire to existing municipal development and infrastructure and will increase forest resilience and promote healthy ecosystem functions. Treatments will include mechanical and nonmechanical thinning, commercial harvest, and prescribed fire on more than 800 acres.

Chalk Buttes Forest Fuels Mitigation

Project Area: Miles City

Amount Awarded: $375,000.00

Project Description: The goals of this project include reducing overstocked forest fuels, creating defendable spaces around infrastructure, and enhancing forest biodiversity and resilience. Treatments will involve reducing hazardous fuels; protecting homes, cabins, and communication towers; and creating jobs.

Fort Belknap – Bear Gulch Temporary Road

Project Area: Fort Belknap Indian Reservation

Amount Awarded: $32,000.00

Project Description: This project involves the design and construction of a temporary forestry road, which will provide forest managers and landowners access to forested lands to conduct a BIA timber sale. The project area is owned by the Fort Belknap Tribe, and the road access and subsequent timber sale will support tribal forestry goals of improving forest health, reducing wildfire risk, and developing a forest product industry.

Gird Creek Stand Improvement and WUI Project

Project Area: Hamilton

Amount Awarded: $150,000.00

Project Description: This project will occur on state-owned land, and it builds on the Buckhorn GNA project currently being implemented on adjacent Forest Service lands. Project goals include protecting neighboring private landowners from severe wildland fire impacts while also improving forest health and wildlife habitat conditions. Activities will include construction of new road to allow access to and facilitate the timber harvest; vegetation treatments such as mechanized, ground-based logging operations, hand falling, and slashing activities; and site preparation, tree planting, and weed control.

Lone Pine State Park Forest & Grassland Improvement

Project Area: Lone Pine State Park

Amount Awarded: $86,000.00

Project Description: This project will occur in Lone Pine State Park with the goals of improving forest structure; promoting a balanced composition of a diversity of tree species and forest types; maintaining habitat for wildlife species; improving native bunch grasses; and educating the public on forest stewardship, active forest management, and the use of prescribed fire. Treatments will include implementing prescribed fire to revitalize native bunchgrass prairie, commercial and noncommercial thinning of Douglas-fir, and planting of western larch and ponderosa pine.

Missouri Headwaters Habitat Restoration and Biomass Utilization Project

Project Area: Beaverhead County

Amount Awarded: $455,564.00

Project Description: This project looks to achieve forest restoration outcomes including the improvement of habitat conditions and connectivity, reduction of fuel loads, and increased resilience to wildfire. Treatments will include the removal of conifer expansion to restore aspen, riparian, sagebrush-steppe, and forested habitats through slashing, prescribed fire, mastication, creation of biochar, and commercial logging operations. Commercially harvested biomass will help kick-start a new sort yard in southwest Montana, which will provide new opportunities for industry to promote diversification and investment in technologies to increase the utilization of raw forest product.

Pines Recreation Area Cross Boundary Project

Project Area: Valley County

Amount Awarded: $250,000.00

Project Description: The goals of this project are to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, expand local fire response capacity, and educate community members on the importance of building fire-adapted communities and landscapes. Treatments will include prescribed fire, Home Ignition Zone work on individual private parcels, mechanical mastication along roadways to improve effectiveness of roads as fire control lines, and fuels reduction on parcels and primitive campsites.

Piquette Creek

Project Area: Bitterroot National Forest, Ravalli County

Amount Awarded: $400,000.00

Project Description: The Piquette Creek project, located in the WUI, will mitigate the risk of catastrophic wildfire; improve forest health and promote resiliency to climate, fire, and insects; and improve habitat and forage for bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk, and other sensitive species. Treatments will include timber harvest, thinning acres in the WUI, prescribed fire, tree planting, and road construction.

Rabbit Tracks Forest Partnership

Project Area: Troy

Amount Awarded: $486,189.00

Project Description: The Rabbit Tracks project, located entirely in the WUI, will improve forest resilience to fire, insects, and disease; maintain old growth characteristics; reduce fuels; improve water quality; provide forage and security for wildlife; and support the wood products industry. Restoration activities will include fuels treatments; pre-commercial and commercial timber harvest; prescribed burning; tree and native shrub, grass, and for planting; and weed treatments.

Red Lodge Mountain Restoration Project

Project Area: Red Lodge

Amount Awarded: $484,900.00

Project Description: The goals of this project include reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfire, restoring forest health, enhancing public and private recreation activities, and producing merchantable timber for the forest products industry. Treatments will include hazardous fuels mitigation, commercial harvest, and forest restoration work, a prescribed fire, and a biochar demonstration project.

Sorrel Springs GNA

Project Area: Frenchtown

Amount Awarded: $76,140.00

Project Description: The Sorrel Springs GNA project is located entirely within the WUI and is intended to reduce wildfire risk to adjacent homeowners and increase forest health and resiliency. Activities will include conducting contract NEPA analysis; project planning, design, and layout; and implementation of a commercial timber harvest.

South Helena – Capital 360 Project

Project Area: Helena

Amount Awarded: $225,000.00

Project Description: This project is, located entirely within the WUI, will reduce the probability of high-severity wildfire in the area, improve forest health, create forestry employment opportunities, and educate the public on how to build wildfire-adapted communities. Activities will include the treatment of fuels across ownership boundaries and the education of WUI residents on how to prepare for wildfire and reduce risk.

Statewide Urban Reforestation

Project Area: Various municipally owned public lands across Montana

Amount Awarded: $199,500.00

Project Description: The project will implement a program in the urban forests of 8-12 communities across Montana to remove unhealthy or undesirable trees and replace them with desirable species. This project will make immediate improvements to community forests to increase safety; proactively address urban forest issues; increase diversity, age class, health, and resilience; increase urban tree canopy cover; and mitigate the potential financial effects of emerald ash borer.

Wildfire Adapted Missoula Twin-Gold Creek Project

Project Area: Missoula County

Amount Awarded: $288,217.00

Project Description: This project, located within the WUI, is intended to reduce wildfire risk, promote forest health and resiliency, and protect wildlife habitat. Treatments will include pre-commercial and commercial thinning and will produce traditional forest products as well as biochar, an innovative use for low value biomass.

For more information, visit www.montanaforestactionplan.org.

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