MISSOULA — The nonprofit National Museum of Forest Service History will build a National Conservation Legacy and Education Center along Highway 10 in Missoula, just west of the airport.
“It will be a one-of-a-kind, world-class facility showcasing America’s conservation history and the history of the U.S. Forest Service, its people, partners and legacy,” ” said museum executive director Lisa Tate.
At 30,000 square feet, the center is designed to welcome more than 100,000 visitors a year. A Forest Service fire lookout tower will rise nearly 50 feet above the lobby. The ground level will include historical collections, artifacts, research and educational programs, with designated areas for school groups, researchers, group meetings, volunteers and staff.
Already, a capital campaign has already raised nearly $4.6 million, or about 43 percent of its goal of $10.5 million.
“Our mission isn’t to build a building,” Tate said. “Our mission is to share the rich history and story of America’s conservation legacy. But a new, world-class facility will be the best tool we have to showcase that history and help people understand and appreciate the rich conservation and management legacy of the Forest Service and its many partners.”
The nonprofit National Education Center will be built on federal land, under a special-use permit with the Forest Service, where the Museum of Forest Service History opened in 2017. The site currently consists of interpretive trails, an old fire tower and a visitor center in an historic 1951 Forest Service Ranger Station that was dismantled and moved from the Clearwater National Forest in Idaho. (When the Education Center opens, the inside of the cabin will be furnished and set up to reflect ranger stations of the time.)
“There’s been a lot of money put into this site already,” Tate said. “We’ve already got most of the underground utilities put in. We’re hoping we can have it built within the next few years, but it’s difficult to guess. We still have a lot of money to raise.”
“It’s a great project,” she added. “We’ve got a lot of support and a lot of momentum.”
In the meantime, Tate wants folks to know that the current facility is open and all are welcome.
“We’re here,” she said. “We offer a lot of opportunities and programs, and we’re expanding all the time.”
Click here to learn more about the Museum of Forest Service History, the National Education Center and how you can help.
-Dave Stalling reporting for the Missoula Current