One million dollars on the table for Forest Service projects

Posted: June 9, 2016

Source: Clark Fork Valley Press

big hole national battelfield -MPB in LPPUnder authority granted by the last Legislature, Governor Steve Bullock’s Forest in Focus Initiative has directed the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to invest up to one million dollars in the USDA Forest Service for projects including restoration, fuel reduction, and forest health projects in.Montana.

On April 19, Bullock sent out a release inviting proposals for projects that meet specific criteria using the Forest in Focus Initiative funds. This criteria includes projects that: Are in the designated Priority Landscapes under the 2014 Farm bill; Are developed collaboratively with interested stakeholders; Provide restoration of vegetation (including fuel reduction); watersheds and wildlife habitat; Produce forest products; Enhance recreational opportunities; Complement management activities on private, state, county, city or tribal lands, and Illustrate cross boundary partnerships and investments.

The reason for developing this initiative is because of the declining health of our national forests. According to a report by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, “The pace and scale of active forest management, particularly timber harvest, has declined dramatically over the past 25 years in Montana, and the health of national forests have suffered as a result.”

The report went on to say that “We need a paradigm shift related to forest management, a move away from contentious and polarizing debate about forest management that frequently results in litigation, towards an open, collaborative and productive dialogue aimed at how to best manage forests for a variety of objectives.”

These funds are particularly important to Mineral County since 90 percent is publically owned by the U.S. Forest Service and the State of Montana.

“This initiative has already provided great benefit to Mineral County and assisted the efforts of our local forest service district,” said Kevin Chamberlain, chairman of the Mineral County Resource Coalition.

For example, funds were used for the Firecracker Annie timber harvest project in the Lolo National Forest. This project included 225 acres of land for salvage and timber affected by overstocking and Mountain Pine Beetle infestation. The total costs for the project was $83,250.

All comments submitted to the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation regarding the use of the funds will be considered and addressed in the final Montana Environmental Policy Act environmental review document. The deadline for comments and suggestions is May 18, 2016 and can be sent to the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Attn: Maureen Bookwalter, 2705 Spurgin Rd., Missoula, MT 59804, or email to: [email protected].