Jul 9, 2014 11:33 AM by KPAX News Staff
HELENA - Gov. Steve Bullock has taking the wraps off his "Forests in Focus" initiative, saying a news release that this is a "critical juncture for the future of Montana's forests."
The multi-dimensional plan looks to bump up the pace and scale of forest restoration, watershed protection and wildlife habitat improvement on private and federal forests across Montana.
"We are at a crossroads with forest health, our mills and the future condition of our forests," Gov. Bullock said in a prepared statement.
"The aftermath of a years-long mountain pine beetle epidemic, stalled projects on thousands of acres of national forests, and continued threats from wildfires provide a strong basis for increased focus on how we manage forests and how we ensure we have a vibrant wood products industry providing good-paying jobs for Montanans."
The governor's efforts reflect national efforts as the 2014 Farm Bill provides several new tools aimed at accelerating sustainable forest management throughout the national forest system.
A key provision of the Farm Bill provided Governor Bullock the opportunity to recommend priority landscapes for treatment based on forest health and wildfire risk, and priority landscapes have been identified on every national forest in Montana.
The Forests in Focus initiative has four key components: Forest Industry and Montana's Restoration Economy; Collaboration and Partnerships; Tribal, State and Private Forests; and Federal Forest Management, according to the news release.
Bullock announced investments in two areas as part of the initiative - $3 million are available from the state fire suppression account for forest health, fuels reduction and watershed restoration projects. Some of the funding will be used to engage the USDA Forest Service in support of projects on priority landscapes identified under the 2014 Farm Bill.
Meanwhile, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation has entered into a master stewardship agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, and hopes to begin work on the first project under the agreement - the Tenmile Watershed near Helena.
There will also be funding for projects on private lands designed to manage forests and, at the same time, provide fiber to Montana mills.
"If the projects have a commercial component, we can treat more acres, or the same amount of acres less expensively," said John Tubbs, Director of the Montana DNRC, who also emphasized the importance of maintaining the state's mill infrastructure and capacity.
The governor called upon land managers, timber industry representatives, the conservation community, private landowners, elected officials and others to work together to meet the challenges facing Montana's forests.
"Working together, we can address the challenges we face and craft meaningful solutions to ensure Montana's forests continue to provide many benefits for current and future generations," he said.
Click here to read more about the Forests in Focus initiative.