07.02.18

Daines, Gianforte Announce Approval of Kootenai National Forest Restoration Project

Today, U.S. Senator Steve Daines and Congressman Greg Gianforte announced the Forest Service’s approval of a project to help restore areas of the Kootenai National Forest that were damaged in last year’s West Fork Fire. The West Fork Fire Salvage and Restoration Project will begin implementation in August.

Last fall, the West Fork Fire burned 21,800 acres seven miles northwest of Libby. Approximately 42 percent of trees in the most severely burned areas - over 9,000 acres - are dead or expected to die. 

“Last year’s wildfires devastated our forests and harmed communities,” said Daines. “This critical project will restore areas on the Kootenai National Forest devastated by last year’s West Fork Fire while supporting good-paying Montana timber jobs.”

“I have worked toward a legislative solution that expands salvage operations and have urged the Forest Service to be more assertive with the authority Congress has given them to expedite salvage work,” said Gianforte. “I am pleased to see this important project move forward to improve the health of the Kootenai National Forest. It’s good for the forest, good for wildlife, good for the local economy, and good for Montana jobs.” 

Statement of Support:

"This is fantastic news! We want to share our appreciation to the hard work and leadership of the Forest Service from acting Chief Christiansen to the Forest Supervisor, especially the field staff on the Kootenai who accomplished a tremendous amount of work with limited resources. Once again, we want to thank Senator Daines for his steadfast, relentless support for Lincoln County and untiring work on forest reforms and resource agency accountability, keep up the great work!" – Mark Peck, Lincoln County Commissioner

Salvage and Restoration Project:

  • The West Fork Fire Salvage and Restoration Project will remove hazard trees that pose safety risks along travel routes (including trails) and recover the economic value of the dead and dying timber.
  • The salvage operations will occur on over 3,000 acres and will generate an estimated 27 million board feet of timber.
  • The project is estimated to result in approximately $2.9 million in revenue that can be used to accomplish much needed restoration work in the burned areas while contributing to employment and income in local communities.
  • The project will remove hazard trees from 29 miles of road and 12 miles of trails.
  • The project includes reforesting 4,100 acres with native trees.

Background:

Under the approved “Emergency Situation Determination,” the Kootenai National Forest is able to expedite timber sales during the fall of 2018. Daines recently filed an amendment during consideration of the Farm Bill in the U.S. Senate to further encourage the Forest Service to carry out salvage and other urgent actions using Emergency Situation Determinations in response to fires and other emergencies on the National Forests.

 On May 24, 2018, Daines sent a letter to Vicki Christiansen, Interim Chief of the Forest Service, requesting immediate action on the National Forest System lands in Montana impacted by the 2017 wildfires. 

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