WHAT IS MITIGATION AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT
Why do our private and public forests in Montana need to be actively managed:
The reduction of hazardous fuels in our forests according to Byron Boney of the Bitter Root RC&D and FireSafe Montana Secretary is one of our highest priority concerns. Mitigation is very important due to many factors. Naturally occurring wild fires were largely excluded from our forests for the past 50+ years through an aggressive and successful firefighting program. Harvest of trees from the public lands which occupy ¾ of our land base has been severely reduced for the last 20 years. Recent trends in climate change have resulted in inadequate moisture to support the large number of trees growing on many of these sites. As these trees die or become weakened by heavy competition, drought and/or fire, they are often attacked by epidemic populations of insects which weaken and/or kill more trees. When a fire starts, it is increasingly difficult to stop because of the accumulation of dead and dying fuels (surface and aerial) which cause the fire to burn more intensely which creates more bare ground, more introduction of noxious weed species, more erosion and more sedimentation. The situation is further exacerbated by increasing numbers of people building homes in or near forests, placing them and their homes at greatly increased risks from fire.
According to Karly DeMars of the BLM, one of the greatest expenses in wildland fire control is the cost of protecting communities from fire impacts. There are a number of programs and groups to help homeowners and communities decrease their hazardous fuel load. The main state and federal grants such as the Community Assistance program through the Bureau of Land Management and the Western States grant offered by the USFS through the DNRC focus on planning, education, and hazardous fuels reduction.
Programs across the state to help homeowners:
These programs offer grant funds on a cost‐share basis (50:50) to private landowners who want to perform hazardous fuel reduction work on their land. The effort is made to work in coordination with areas adjacent to USFS and DNRC hazardous fuels reduction projects, thus broadening the area of treatment impact. Local neighborhoods are also encouraged to work together to create a local microcosm of greater fire protection. In order to make this all happen, many partnerships have been developed with federal, state, local and private organizations, which have similar goals.
Several programs that have been immensely successful across the state are through the Resource Conservation and Development groups and the Community Assistant Grants through the Bureau of Land Management. Here are a few program highlights from the Bitter Root RC&D, North Central RC&D, the TriCounty FireSafe Working Group, and BLM of Montana and the Dakotas.
There are many successful partnerships that exist across the state. Including but not limited to Flathead Economic Policy Center, TriCounty FireSafe Working Group, Beartooth RC&D, Miles City Fire Warden, North Fork Landowners Association/DNRC, Lincoln County FireSafe Counci… are just a few of the collaborative mitigation success stories.
Click here to learn more about the success of fuel treatments in the Wallow Fire
Click here for the Lessons Learned in 2012 From the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center