About the Southwestern Crown Collaborative

Local strategies for healthy forests and healthy communities

Solutions for the ailing health of our forests and communities are achieved when people cooperate and figure it out together.  That’s what the Southwestern Crown Collaborative is all about - local collaboration that gets the job done.

Residents of the Southwestern Crown of the Continent already have a rich history of working together. For years, partnerships between groups and individuals once at odds have been defining a new vision for success on the land. Our partners work well together because they are pragmatic, value science, and work to engage a diversity of viewpoints.  Our list of members and participants includes local and national conservation groups, federal and state land agencies, local citizens, and the University of Montana.

Alice Creek prescribed burn on the Lincoln Ranger District.

Alice Creek prescribed burn on the Lincoln Ranger District.

We began meeting regularly in July 2009 in response to the creation of a new forward-thinking program that promotes community well-being and forest restoration - the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) Program. It took us a year to develop a comprehensive vision for the Southwestern Crown landscape.  Now, with investments from the CFLR program and private match dollars, we have begun implementing a decade-long restoration strategy to achieve it.

Our process: Anyone can become a member of the SWCC.  The founding “charter” of the group identifies all that is necessary is a willingness to participate and attendance in at least two meetings prior to becoming a member. The SWCC Collaborative members try to make decisions by consensus.  The group typically uses a voting method where a “thumbs-up” (approve), “thumbs sideways” (approve with reservation), or “thumbs down” (disapprove) signals a member’s vote. A disapproving vote requires an explanation to the other members of the reason for the objection and a potential means by which the objection might be resolved. If agreement is reached, a memorandum summarizing the suggestion is written by one of the SWCC Co-Chairs and submitted to the appropriate Forest Service officials. If concensus cannot be reached, the discussion is tabled or all sides of the argument are presented to the Forest Service.  

About the Land

Southwestern Crown of the Continent boundary and surrounding lands.

Southwestern Crown of the Continent boundary and surrounding lands.

The Southwestern Crown of the Continent forms the southern boundary of the wild Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and consists of the lower elevation forests and communities of the Blackfoot, Clearwater, and Swan River valleys. Across its 1.5 million acres, you’ll find a tapestry of working ranches, public and private forest lands, craggy mountain peaks, abundant wildlife, and pristine lakes and streams.

A unique place in America: Because of its largely rural roots, the extent of its wilderness lands, and decades of ongoing conservation activities, the Southwestern Crown is still a wildlife hub and remains rather unchanged from what it looked like several hundred years ago. It’s one of the only places left in America that still provides important habitat for grizzly bear, elk, deer, lynx, gray wolf, wolverine, and a wide variety of bird species and native fish.

Challenges: Although the Southwestern Crown looks like a postcard to visitors, locals will tell you it has its host of challenges that threaten to unravel the area’s overall health.

For example, a century-long absence of natural fire led to evacuations of Seeley Lake in August 2007, when the entire town was threatened by the Jocko Lakes Fire. Meanwhile, a declining timber market continues to adversely impact the rural economy. In 2008, the Stimson Lumber Mill in Bonner ceased operations, laying off over 100 employees, and in December 2009, Smurfit-Stone announced the closure of its pulp mill in Missoula.

Less visible, but no less dangerous, processes are also threatening to unravel the area’s famed wildlife habitat and healthy forests. The continued spread of noxious and invasive plants is weeding out native plants and degrading wildlife habitat, while a legacy of old logging roads and mining activities have been choking out native fish and water quality for a century. The impacts of a changing climate are the most difficult to tease out, and scientists question whether the area’s forests and wildlife will be resilient enough to withstand additional changes.

The combined impact of these threats, if left unaddressed, will lead to widespread harm for forest, local wildlife and communities. The future of this place, the Southwestern Crown, depends on how we respond.

Wolverine tracks cut through winter landscape in Montana's Crown of the Continent.

Wolverine tracks cut through winter landscape in Montana's Crown of the Continent.

Accomplishments

The SWCC established quantitative goals in our original CFLRP proposal. We have reached many of those goals in the first seven years of the program. While others we need to continue to work on. (Updated January 2017)

Members and Supporters

Our Members

The Southwestern Crown Collaborative's voting membership currently includes the following individuals and we are actively working to expand our membership (* indicates co-chair).

Jim Burchfield Citizen-at-large*

Gary Burnett Blackfoot Challenge*

Matt Arno MT Department of Natural Resources

Anne Dahl Citizen-at-large

Cory Davis University of Montana

Mitch Doherty Vital Ground Foundation

Jon Haufler Ecosystem Management Research Institute

Luke Lamar Swan Valley Connections

Maria Mantas Swan Valley Connections

Roger Marshall Citizen-at-large

Edward Monnig Citizen-at-large

Jordan Reeves The Wilderness Society

William Wall Clearwater Resource Council

 

The SWCC is a participating group of the Montana Forest Collaboration Network.


Our Supporters

The following individuals, agencies, and organizations have expressed their support for the Southwestern Crown Collaborative.

  • Montana Logging Association
  • Montana Trout Unlimited
  • Montana Wood Products Association
  • Multi-Agency Integrated Restoration Strategy Group
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Swan Valley Connections
  • Pyramid Mountain Lumber
  • Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
  • RMRS Fire Sciences Laboratory
  • Swan River State Forest
  • The Trust for Public Land
  • The Wilderness Society
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Senator Jon Tester
  • Montana Governor's Office of Economic Development
  • Alpine Artisans
  • American Wildlands
  • Blackfoot Challenge
  • Clearwater Resource Council
  • Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation
  • Lake County Commissioners
  • Lincoln Restoration Committee
  • Lolo Restoration Committee
  • Missoula County Commissioners
  • Montana Community Development Corporation
  • Montana Conservation Corps