The Forest Service today announced a new report to accelerate forest restoration on national forests and grasslands. A central component of that report is an increased investment of $40 million for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) program, which was authorized by Congress last year.
In Montana, supporters of this program say CFLR is helping a new collaborative model flourish in west-central Montana and accomplishing forest restoration goals by achieving agreement on the ground.
According to a summary of accomplishments provided by the Forest Service in December, the efforts of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program enabled Montana’s Lolo, Flathead, and Helena National Forests to accomplish the following in 2011:
- 239 full and part-time jobs created and maintained
- 4,229 acres of hazardous fuel treated to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildland fire
- 11,201 acres of wildlife habitat restored or enhanced
- 14 miles of stream habitat restored or enhanced
- 2,960 acres treated for noxious weeds and invasive plants
- 10 miles of old roads decommissioned
- 160 miles of recreational trails maintained and restored
- 25,900 (CCF) of commercial timber sold
- 19,816 acres treated to restore watersheds
According to Missoula County Commission Chair Jean Curtiss, a crucial step to achieve this work has been a reliable source of funding.
“CFLR brings much needed employment to our rural communities while protecting the valuable resources which make western Montana such a wonderful place to live and recreate,” said Curtiss. “By working with our scientists, our multiple use advocates and our mills, the collaborative’s efforts benefit residents and visitors alike. Funding of CFLR helps reestablish healthy forests, provides countless opportunities for all types of recreation, enhances our defenses against wildfire and improves the habitat of our fish and wildlife species.”
Members of the Southwestern Crown Collaborative, a group of community development organizations, university scholars, timber advocates and conservationists are helping the Forest Service guide the program in Montana and say numbers like that put them on track to meet their longer-term restoration goals.
“What was envisioned back in 2009 is really starting to take-off now,” said Gary Burnett of the Blackfoot Challenge. “It’s enabled the Forest Service and their partners to increase our collective collaborative efforts to implement fire management and forest restoration across a larger landscape by attacking invasive pests, restoring watershed function, and delivering forest products and services.”
The program has even allowed business owners like Dave Cheff, owner of Ureco Construction in Columbia Falls, to better plan for the future by taking advantage of new job prospects that wouldn’t be available otherwise.
“Long-term, I think this program is providing more certainty for businesses, their banks and other investors,” said Cheff, whose company has successfully bid and begun work on two forest projects on the Lolo National Forest, partially funded by CFLR dollars.
The program kicked-off in Montana in 2010 after the region was one of 10 programs competitively selected to receive CFLR funding, appropriated on an annual basis. The gradually increasing funding levels for the CFLR work is testament to the programs growing popularity and a sign of rare bipartisan support among lawmakers in DC.
“Regardless of which side of the aisle they sit on, our Congressional leaders have clearly recognized the value of this program because it simultaneously benefits forests, water, and the economy.” said Megan Birzell, The Wilderness Society’s Missoula-based Forest Associate.