Community Protection Across Ownership Boundaries

Story by: Terina Goicoechea, Fire Mitigation & Education Specialist, Western Montana District

Despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Butte Field Office Fuels Management and Western Montana District Office Community Assistance programs continued to address wildfire risk in priority Wildland Urban Interface areas adjacent to and surrounding the community of Clancy, Montana.

Downed trees show fuel conditions before Tri-county Fire Safe Working Group
Dense trees and heavy downfall from mountain pine beetle outbreaks.
Photos courtesy of TCFSWG.

The BLM recently held a meeting with the Sheep Mountain Homeowners Association to inform them about the Cohesive Strategy goals and how the two BLM programs work cooperatively to achieve results across ownership boundaries. The BLM fuels specialist who addressed the group also described the project plans and implementation strategies for adjacent land on the BLM side of the fence.

As a result of the meeting, six of the eight private landowners in the HOA (surrounded by BLM-administered land) applied for BLM Community Assistance funds through an assistance agreement with the Tri-county FireSafe Working Group (TCFSWG) to treat hazardous fuels on their properties. In addition, adjacent BLM parcels previously inaccessible due to access issues were treated simultaneously by the same contractor.

Over the last seven years, the BLM Fuels Management program has implemented fuels reduction projects on 2,024 acres in the Clancy area, with the BLM Community Assistance program treating additional priority acres on adjacent private ground. Both programs, through outreach and project implementation over multiple years, have addressed community protection priorities as identified through the Community Wildfire Protection Planning process.

Trees, rocks, mountains
A more open stand structure and greater spacing between trees.
(Notice the now visible houses in the WUI.) Photos by Greg Campbell

The BLM efforts, in collaboration with TCFSWG, help to create a Fire Adapted Community by promoting local involvement in planning and implementing actions to mitigate risk posed by wildfire, emphasizing proactive risk reduction actions, assisting local communities to protect life and property, and highlighting strategies on how to live safely and compatibly with wildland fire.

Outcomes of the project included improved safety of firefighters and first responders (creating a safer point from which to address future fire events and implement fire suppression strategies and tactics and/or evacuation procedures) and a forest more resilient to future insects and disease outbreaks. The greater contiguity across ownership boundaries and less fragmentation of project locations increases the risk reduction impact and further lessens the wildland fire threat to communities and to natural resources on BLM-administered lands.