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Eastern Montana/Dakotas District Office
Release Date: 01/20/11
Contacts: Mark Jacobsen 406-233-2831    

BLM Burns Slash for Habitat, Safety

Fire personnel from the BLM Eastern Montana – Dakotas District started burning slash piles staged in the Moon Creek area southwest of Miles City Jan. 19.

The burning operations are eliminating the approximately 1,000 piles of non-marketable timber and debris that are the byproduct of a hazardous fuels reduction project initiated earlier this year. Slash piles are located in both the Moon Creek and Pine Hills areas and will be burned as favorable conditions permit, up to the first week of February.

BLM staff commenced igniting the Moon Creek/North Miller Creek slash piles yesterday, as weather conditions provided for good ignition and the considerable snow pack markedly reduced the risk of fire spreading unchecked into other areas.

The project is part of a greater national initiative to assist in the effort to ensure public and firefighter safety and reduce risks to communities while improving and maintaining ecosystem health.

“We’re really focusing our efforts on the wildland-urban interface area,” said Fire Management Officer Eric Lepisto, of the Eastern Montana – Dakotas District, headquartered in Miles City. “Our objective for this specific unit is to keep wildfire from leaving BLM ground and moving onto private land as well as to improve wildlife habitat.”

Lepisto, who recently replaced David Overcast as the district FMO said that this was an opportunity to get more “bang for the buck” by concentrating on projects that accomplish multiple objectives.

In this case, range and resource health will be improved as trees are thinned to open up the forest canopy, reduce competition from other species and encourage grass and shrub growth that wildlife rely upon. Fuels are also eliminated thereby lowering the likelihood of hot, high intensity fires that can move quickly as they consume crowded tree stands --putting firefighters and private property at risk.

Lepisto expressed appreciation for the varied partnerships with local government offices, agencies and landowners which have contributed to the project’s success.

“Faced with decreasing national fuels budgets we are prioritizing our treatments based on joint funding with cooperators,” he said. “We’re partners with the community and counties in these projects. We can’t do the job all by ourselves.”

For more information on the ongoing project or to get advice about maintaining defensible space in wildland-urban areas call the BLM Miles City Interagency Dispatch Center at (406)233-2900. More information regarding national interagency fuels management and hazard fuels reduction can also be found on the web at:

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Eastern Montana/Dakotas District Office   111 Garryowen Road      Miles City, MT 59301  

Last updated: 06-28-2012