Last week, Governor Greg Gianforte announced funding for 14 new forest management projects to reduce wildfire risk, improve forest health and wildlife habitats, and support local economies with good-paying jobs in the forest industry.
The projects range in size from 100 to 1,000 acres and correspond with the recently completed Montana Forest Action Plan, which reassessed statewide forest conditions, identified priority areas for treatment, and developed a cross-boundary plan to accomplish landscape-scale forest restoration.
Amanda Kaster, director of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, said the state has committed $4.5 million for the new projects and received $500,000 in grant funds from the USDA Forest Service.
Stakeholders in the conservation and logging industries praised the announcement:
Julia Altemus, executive director of the Montana Wood Products Association: “We are excited to see the selection of 14 Montana Forest Action Plan projects. These projects are the first to be funded by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service and $4.5 million in state funding. Obviously, there is a huge need for restoration and hazardous fuels reduction identified on priority acres as 47 applications were submitted, totaling over $14 million. Projects include infrastructure work within municipal watersheds, fuel reduction treatments within the wildland urban interface and wildlife habitat improvement across many landscapes. We applaud the work of the Governor, the MT DNRC and the Forest Action Plant Advisory Council.”
Kyle Weaver, president and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: “The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a strong, long-time proponent of active forest management and supports the efforts of the Gianforte administration to improve overall forest health. These 14 forest management projects will also minimize wildfire risk, create landscape diversity and improve forage for elk and other wildlife. Additionally, we appreciate the project sponsors for developing these actions in support of the recently completed Montana Forest Action Plan.”
Greg Chilcott, Ravalli County commissioner and chairman of the Montana Coalition of Forest Counties: “Ravalli County thanks Governor Gianforte and Director Kaster for prioritizing active forest management. These projects will enhance forest health, improve wildlife habitat, increase forest revenues, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, and provide for the health and safety of the citizens living in our communities.”
Jason Todhunter, Headwaters regional representative of the Montana Logging Association: “The MLA is strongly supportive of the grants approved by the Gianforte administration for forest health and fire safety; these grants will get some much-needed fuels reduction completed in high-risk areas where life and property are in danger from catastrophic fire. Fuels reduction projects not only produce jobs, but they allow loggers to fight fire year around without the added hazard of smoke and flame. We are especially supportive of those projects where there are some commercial logs produced as well as these logs are needed to help supply Montana’s remaining sawmills. These projects could make a huge difference in Montana’s next fire season and could save lives and property! We would like to thank Governor Gianforte, Director Kaster and the Montana DNRC for approving these important projects.”
Mark Aagenes, director of external affairs of The Nature Conservancy in Montana: “So many diverse groups came together to create the Montana Forest Action Plan which is the guiding document for this funding and for careful cross boundary, large-scale forest management in Montana. With a nod towards working together, thanks go to Governor Bullock for establishing this effort and to Governor Gianforte for moving the funding forward and for recognizing the value of the program and these projects. It’s great to see a good program, which helps both local communities and forest health, transcend both administrations.”
PRESS RELEASE PROVIDED BY GOVERNOR GREG GIANFORTE