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Preservation, restoration of Skookum Butte Lookout brings fire history to light

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Skookum Butte Lookout Map
Posted at 3:13 PM, Sep 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-09 12:36:52-04

LOLO - You will find a dirt road that takes you to the Montana-Idaho border just off US Highway 12 west of Lolo.

Then after a moderate two-mile hike up — with some steep sections along the way — you will find the Skookum Butte Lookout.

While lookouts aren't a total relic of the past for firefighting, efforts are being made to preserve them.

“If you look outside the windows still out here and we're calling log number two on the rock right back there,” said Jackson Poppen, preservation specialist working on the lookout.

Skookum Butte Lookout Map

Nestled on top of a rock — and nearing 100 years old — Skookum Butte Lookout stands tall thanks to this team of volunteers, preservation specialists and Lolo National Forest Archaeologist Sydney Bacon.

“Lookouts like this are non-renewable resources,” Bacon told MTN News.

The four-year-long restoration project is nearing completion and is part of a heritage restoration and Passport In Time project. The focus is on preserving the history that lies within our forests.

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“Part of this process is trying to keep and preserve as much of the original lumber and hardware as we can,” said preservation specialist John Schumacher.

And with remembering the history of lookouts, comes exploring the history of fire in the Missoula community.

“This is an important historical structure and important piece of a network of historical structures," said Lolo National Forest Missoula District Ranger Crystal Stonesifer. "That is really cool foundation of the story of our firefighting histories.”

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“It seems like everybody in Missoula knows somebody that's a part of the wildland fire community and in a way, this is a tribute to sort of that fire history,” Schumacher told MTN News.

Lauren Poppen has been able to take in the view and learn about the history of the Lolo National Forest while working as a volunteer. “I mean, they're not building anymore so that makes it really special."

“Once these buildings are gone, either destroyed by fire, lightning, you know vandalism; once they're gone, they can never come back," said Bacon. "This building is almost 100 years old.”

Directions to the historic lookout can be found here.

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