U.S. Forest Service

Forest Service helicopter crews practicing medical evacuation west of Missoula, MT.
Lane Lamoreaux (PD)

Two Forest Service helicopter crews are practicing medical evacuation maneuvers this week west of Missoula.

The teams are training for "Emergency Medical Short-Haul" missions.

From Where Roads Will Never Reach: Wilderness and Its Visionaries in the Northern Rockies, by Frederick H. Swanson ($24.95 softcover, ©2015 University of Utah Press)

House Approves Bill Requesting Payment From Feds For Public Land Sales

Apr 10, 2015
Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R) SD7
Montana Legislature

Today at the Montana Legislature, state Representatives voted to pass a bill that would request that the federal government pay Montana five percent of all public land sales.

Senate Bill 298’s sponsor, Republican Senator Jennifer Fielder says that because the Forest Service split from the Department of the Interior, Montanans haven’t been getting their cut of the land sales because the federal government only monitors Department of Interior sales.

We’re continuing our series of interviews on the new management plan for the Flathead National Forest. We’ve heard from the Forest Service and the Montana Wilderness Association so far. This time we’re talking to a prominent timber company executive.

Paul McKenzie is the lands and resource manager at F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber in Columbia Falls. I spoke to him in his office.

U.S. National Interagency Fire Center

Montana's active wildfire season is just around the corner. Every single federal, state and local wildland firefighter assigned to fire duty is required to carry a fire shelter. They’re thin, silica-impregnated tents laminated with aluminum foil, and are proven lifesavers. Now, the Forest Service is working on making them even better.

Steve Whitby/Neptune Aviation

A Missoula aviation company is anxiously waiting to find out how many more of its air tankers will be dumping slurry on wildfires.

Flathead National Forest

The Flathead National Forest is revising its forest plan for the first time since 1986. The plan lays out what is and isn’t possible on 2.4 million acres of federal land from Seeley Lake to the Canadian border.

Forest Service Northern Region

Growing out of forest restoration efforts around Helena, Montana, in 2014, a cooperative stewardship agreement between the state of Montana and the U. S. Forest Service was developed, the first of its kind in the United States.

Courtesy Timberline Resources

Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality approved a permit for an underground gold mine south of Butte Monday.

The permitting process for the Butte Highlands Mine started in 2010, and Timberline Resources, the Idaho-based company behind it has already been exploring on the privately owned site.

Kristi Ponozzo with Montana DEQ says the mining permit "includes modifications to the proposed action...for mining. Under that alternative we are requiring additional water quality monitoring."

Jim Peaco (CC-BY-2.0)

Yellowstone National Park has started capturing bison near the park's north entrance and bison advocates have sued to stop it.

Disease management and carrying capacity are at the center of the operation.

Park spokesman Al Nash says a total of 800 to 900 bison that migrate out of the park could be removed.

"We're doing so to be able to approach the target bison population and to see if we can reduce the potential for a mass-migration of bison into Montana where there is still some limited tolerance."

U.S. Forest Service Northern Region (CC-BY-2.0)

Sometimes the best things in life come from unexpected places. This was the case for Missoulian Dick Rothermel and his wife about 13 years ago when they stumbled across a modest cabin for sale on Seeley Lake-area Forest Service land.

Reynermedia.com (CC-BY-2.0)

Officials in 33 Montana counties are keenly aware of what's not in the trillion dollar federal spending bill to keep government open: an extension of the Secure Rural Schools, or SRS program, that Montana counties have relied on since 2000.

SRS funding is stripped out of the spending bill the House has been considering this week.

The SRS program was helps pay down school bonds and also funds road maintenance projects.

Mineral County Commissioner Laurie Johnston has a blunt assessment of the situation.

Bell & Jeff (CC-BY-2.0)

The U.S. Forest Service's Northern Region met its timber harvest goal last year. That’s the first time that has happened in over 14 years.

Regional Forester Faye Krueger says Region One, which includes Montana, harvested about 280 million board feet of timber.

Krueger says a major factor in the agency reaching its goal is that it's  overhauled its litigation strategy.

www.CGPGrey.com by/2.0

It was yet another expensive wildfire-fighting season, but early estimates indicate it won't be as spendy as some others in recent memory. Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers says preliminary estimates show the Forest Service went $200 million over budget this season. Congress authorized the agency to spend $995 million on fire suppression this fiscal year.  That's compared to about $3 billion in recent years. Forest Service Region One spokeswoman Heather Noel says we were lucky this year.

“Firewise” by Monte Dolack used by permission via Headwaters Economics

It’s estimated that at least 30 percent of the money the Forest Service and BLM spend on wildfires is spent to protect private property, like homes on the edge of public lands.

A new report from Headwaters Economics in Bozeman offers strategies to keep that number from growing.

Ray Rasker is Headwaters’ executive director, he spoke with Eric Whitney about the non-profit group's new report.

U.S. Forest Service issued a press release late Thursday to clarify the intent behind the proposed directive for commercial photography and filmmaking in Congressionally designated wilderness areas.

The Forest Service describes it as a good faith effort to ensure wilderness areas are protected.

Critics say it essentially gives the agency story-approval power.

Montana’s entire congressional delegation today called for the rule to be clarified and re-drafted.

The U.S. Forest Service has proposed  requiring permits for still photography and commercial filming in designated wilderness areas, making permanent an interim rule in place since 2010.

According to The Oregonian, permits would cost up to $1,500, with a $1,000 fine for failure to get a permit.

Montana's entire congressional delegation has written to the Forest Service expressing concerns with the proposal.

The Need For Comprehensive Federal Forest Reforms

Aug 19, 2014

There has been quite a bit of opinion writing lately about whether members of congress should focus on place-based federal forestland pilots, or whether they should work to pass comprehensive federal forest reforms.

On the one hand, place-based efforts are homegrown initiatives that carve out temporary solutions to meet local needs, while a comprehensive reform package offers sweeping changes that land managers, timber companies and timber-dependent communities can rely on for the long-term.

Well, it looks like the Forest Service has done it to themselves again.  By this I mean the recent Federal Register notice announcing the agency is undertaking the writing of national Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Water Quality Protection on National Forest System lands.

On the Ownership of Public Lands

Jun 25, 2014

Few topics in the West stir up controversy more quickly than public lands—those places all Americans own together.  The latest headline involves some Utah county commissioner planning an ATV rally on public lands of archeological importance.  While some people see public lands management as federal land grabs and liberty restrictions, others value public ownership as protection for places from private exploitation.  But what does it really mean to own these lands?

Bob Nichols, USDA

Growing up on the Mescalero Apache Indian reservation in New Mexico, Arthur "Butch" Blazer hunted and fished and spent all his time outdoors. He translated that love of the outdoors into a career, as a natural resources manager with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, then as the first Native American appointed state forester for New Mexico, and now as the Deputy Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment for the U.S. Department of Agriculture - where he oversees the U.S. Forest Service.

USDA

Federal agencies will be spending $865,000 dollars to help restore Helena’s primary watershed. 

The Ten-Mile watershed lies just southwest of the Capitol city and provides 80 percent of the community’s drinking water. 

The restoration is one of 13 projects across the country announced this week by the US Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service.

USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Bonnie unveiled the $30 million dollar partnership in Helena.

Sally Mauk

Americans love their national forests.

File Photo

Montana’s Congressman Steve Daines is touting a bill he is cosponsoring which would increase logging on national forest lands.

The Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act passed the U.S. House last Friday.

Supporters say the bill would boost local economies near forest land and help lower the risk of catastrophic wildfires like those seen near Yosemite National Park this summer.

But, the bill faces some stiff opposition, including from the Obama Administration.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Various agencies are teaming-up to research recreation patterns on the Blackfoot and Bitterroot Rivers.
     The study will be conducted by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service and the University of Montana.
     The point of the survey is to find out what river users like about our waterways and where they'd like to see some improvements made.

In this feature interview, F-W-P's Fishing Access Site Manager, Chet Crowser, says one thing is clear; people love our rivers and more of us are using them.