by Byron Bonney, Community Forester, Bitter Root RC&D
The Bitter Root RC&D is responsible for fuel mitigation grant funding programs within Ravalli, Missoula (except the Blackfoot drainage) and Mineral Counties. The main goal of these grant programs is to reduce fire risk on private land. Reduction of fire risk is accomplished by thinning to reduce the crown density thus reducing (not eliminating) the probability of an active crown fire. The treatments are also designed to reduce the probability of a surface fire from entering the crowns of the larger trees by thinning the ladder fuels. A secondary objective that is naturally accomplished through fuel reduction is improving the forest resilience and vigor of the timber stands that are treated.
During the 2019 calendar year, grant programs have accomplished the following fuel mitigation projects within the three-county area covered by the Bitter Root RC&D. Some of the contractors used on projects were hired on multiple projects. In addition, some contractors worked within different counties. There were 17 of the 121 total projects where landowners elected to accomplish the fuel mitigation themselves.
During 2019, the Bitter Root RC&D has had a total of one grant for Mineral County, two grants for Missoula County, and four grants for Ravalli County. Three of the seven grants were completed earlier this year with four grants still active but all four of those grants are totally obligated so there is no current funding available. All of these grants were Western States Competitive grants. The RC&D has received two HZF grants recently for two individual projects covering 45.1 acres, one in Missoula County and one in Ravalli County. These projects have not been initiated to date but will be in 2020.