HELENA, Mont. – Governor Steve Bullock announced today new state investments in forestry work to reduce fire danger, restore watersheds, and keep Montanans working in the woods. Additionally, he joined Robert Bonnie, Under Secretary of Natural Resources and Environment, US Department of Agriculture, and Regional Forester Leanne Marten to sign Montana’s Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA).
“We’ve made great strides in Montana to invest in forest projects to improve wildlife habitats, reduce the threat of fire danger, and protect jobs in the woods,” said Governor Bullock. “Today’s signing will further improve our ability to work collaboratively making sure projects in Montana provide the most value to support and protect our forests and jobs in the industry.”
Bullock announced a second round of investments in national forest projects on Farm Bill landscapes. When completed, those projects are anticipated to restore approximately 44,000 acres of forest and generate 100 million board feet in timber for Montana’s mills. This includes $177,000 that is allocated to new GNA projects.
Signing the GNA validates the partnership each agency has been honoring for some time and expands upon the Governor’s ongoing efforts under the 2014 Farm Bill to put Montanans to work in the woods, reduce the threat of fire danger, and improve wildlife habitats. The GNA formalizes a process for additional state and federal cooperation and management across land ownerships.
Montana recently completed one of the first GNA projects in the nation utilizing the new authority.
In 2014, Governor Bullock designated almost 5 million acres of national forests in Montana as Priority Landscapes under the Farm Bill, paving the way for the Forest Service to increase the pace of federal forest management activities. As a result of Bullock’s designations and his initial round of direct investment of state dollars into projects, it is anticipated that over 50 MMBF of timber will be delivered to Montana’s mills, keeping Montanans at work in the woods and restoring forest health.
“This agreement underscores the tremendous partnership between the Forest Service and the state of Montana toward our shared goal of landscape restoration,” said Under Secretary Bonnie. “By leveraging our resources, we are able to accomplish more work on the ground for the benefit of our forests and our communities.”
Governor Bullock is preparing to tackle reform of national forest management as chair of the Western Governors’ Association, working with his fellow western Governors to shape consensus on this difficult topic.
Governor Bullock was the first governor in the country to sign a Master Stewardship Agreement with the Forest Service, strengthening the state’s hand in federal forest management.
In addition, Bullock has led his colleagues in calling upon the federal government to obtain strong and meaningful resolution of the ongoing dispute with Canada regarding softwood lumber imports.
In July of 2014, Governor Bullock announced $3.5 million in funding for investment in federal forest management projects on Farm Bill Priority Landscapes, cost-share forest restoration projects on tribal and private forested lands, and increased local fire suppression capability. As a result:
- $1 million has been invested in projects on National Forest lands, to promote collaboration and jobs in the woods, as well as improved wildlife habitat and reduced fire danger. These projects are anticipated to result in on the ground benefits for recreation, wildlife, watershed and forest health, reduced fire danger, and more than 50 million board feet of timber to local mills.
- $2 million was allocated to cost-share forest restoration projects on non-federal forested lands, addressing forest health and producing more than 5 million board feet of timber.
- $500,000 supported increased fire suppression capability for local rural fire departments.
In October of 2015, and to further the objectives of Forests in Focus, Governor Bullock announced an additional $3 million in funding:
- $2 million to be available for cost-share on additional non-federal forest restoration projects.
- $1 million to invest in projects that leverage additional federal investments on National Forest Priority Landscapes. On July 18, 2016, Bullock announced state investments totaling $1 million in 10 projects that will ultimately restore 44,000 acres of forest and generate 100 million board feet of timber for Montana mills.
Additional information on the Governor’s Forest in Focus Initiative can be found here.