Governor Steve Bullock today signed an Executive Order forming the Montana Forest Action Advisory Council, a statewide collaborative group charged with updating the Montana Forest Action Plan to address long-term efforts to conserve working forest lands, protect forests from harm, and enhance public benefits from forests throughout the state.
“We can and we must work together for the well-being of our forests and to reduce wildland fire risk,” said Governor Bullock. “I’m confident that through these new partnerships we can protect our outdoor recreational opportunities, wildlife and fisheries habitat for a diverse range of species, drinking water supplies and soil health, all while treating more acres on the ground and investing in priority areas around the state.”
Governor Bullock called on the Council to examine current conditions and trends affecting all forested lands in Montana using a data-derived and scientifically rigorous process, ensure the plan does not counter or conflict with existing land management plans, and amplify ongoing collaborative efforts that bring together stakeholders representing diverse perspectives.
The Council’s work will include assessing statewide forest conditions, identifying priority areas for treatment, and developing cross-boundary solutions to accomplish landscape-scale forest restoration as called for in the Governor’s Forests in Focus 2.0 Initiative released last September. This effort offers a unique opportunity for the State of Montana to engage a diverse group of partners to respond to the U.S. Forest Service Shared Stewardship Strategy, which calls for the state to take a lead role in convening stakeholders to set priorities across broad forested landscapes.
“The Montana Forest Action Plan represents an all-hands, all-lands approach to protect resources and values at risk across Montana’s forested landscape,” continued Governor Bullock.
Governor Bullock is forming the Council on the heels of a legislature that chose to invest in increasing the pace and scale of forest management on federal lands. Driven by his Forests in Focus 2.0 Initiative, Governor Bullock included, and the legislature supported, making two positions permanent and adding an additional 6.5 one-time-only positions to jumpstart the Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) program in the State of Montana.
The 2019 legislature also supported House Bill 34, which created statutory spending authority for the GNA account established in the previous legislature. Under GNA, The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) can conduct forest management and restoration on federal lands. A portion of the revenue generated by GNA projects can be held by the state to pay for its own positions and to put more work on the ground going forward.
The Montana Forest Action Advisory Council will deliver a final plan to Governor Bullock in September 2020. Throughout the coming year, the Council will meet six to eight times across the state and will hold public meetings and identify public comment periods to support deliberations and facilitate public input and ideas. The original Montana Forest Action Plan was completed in 2010 and is due to be revised in 2020. DNRC will serve as the principal convener of key stakeholders and Tribal Nations.
The Leadership Committee comprised of members of the council will manage the course of operations for the council, decide on priorities and order of business over the year-long planning process, and deliberate on issues assigned to them by the larger body of the council. These members include:
- Carol Brooker, Sanders County Commissioner, Montana Association of Counties, and Coalition of Forested Counties
- Mark Peck, Lincoln County Commissioner, Montana Association of Counties, and Coalition of Forested Counties
- Jim Durglo, Intertribal Timber Council
- Gordy Sanders, Pyramid Lumber
- Darcie Warden, Greater Yellowstone Coalition
- Erin Farris-Olsen, Montana Watershed Coordinating Council
- Tim Love, Montana Forest Collaborative Network
- Tom DeLuca, University of Montana College of Forestry and Conservation
General Members of the Council include:
- Steve Hedstrom, Montana Association of Conservation Districts
- Mark Aagenes, The Nature Conservancy
- Fred Bicha, Kalispell Parks and Recreation
- John Todd, Montana Wilderness Association
- Tony Colter, Sun Mountain Lumber
- Blake Henning, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
- Jack Rich, Montana Outfitter and Guides Association
- Jason Todhunter, Montana Logging Association
- Holly McKenzie, Private Forest Landowner and Private Forestry Consultant
- Pete Nelson, Defenders of Wildlife
- Jeff Schmidt, Red Lodge Mountain Resort
- Tom Schultz, Idaho Forest Group
- Land Tawney, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
Tribal Nations invited to join the partnership include:
- Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Reservation
- Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy's Reservation
- Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation
- Crow Tribe of the Crow Reservation
- Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes of the Fort Belknap Reservation
- Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation
- Little Shell Chippewa Tribe
- Northern Cheyenne Tribe of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation
Ex-officio state and federal agencies include:
- Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
- Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks
- Montana Department of Environmental Quality
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Bureau of Land Management
- U.S. Forest Service
- Glacier National Park
- Yellowstone National Park
- Natural Resource Conservation Service