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story and photo by David Abrams, Western Montana District

equipment removes trees at Garnet Ghost Town 

A feller-buncher works on trees in the ghost town area. 
The BLM’s Missoula Field Office recently received one of three bureau-wide awards for its hazardous fuels reduction work at Garnet and Coloma ghost towns.
The National Fire Management Award recognizes “individuals or groups who have substantially advanced resource management through collaboration, the integration of programs, and accomplishment of interdisciplinary management objectives to improve land health.”
The Missoula Field Office learned about their national-level recognition during an annual fuels review on May 7.
“I am extremely proud of my staff,” said Nancy Anderson, Missoula Field Office Manager. “They care deeply about the health of the forests entrusted to their care.  Their hard work in the area of hazardous fuels reduction and forest health is deserving of this special recognition.”
Garnet and Coloma, located east of Missoula, began in the 1890s as mining towns. During their heyday, the towns had more than 1,000 residents. 
Over time, fire has posed a significant threat to the towns due to the surrounding heavy fuels. In recent years, the rate of fuel buildup has increased significantly due to the mountain pine beetle infestation. The beetles have killed close to 90 percent of the lodgepole pine greater than 5-inch diameter breast height around Garnet and Coloma.
In 2006, through a stewardship contract with Cky-ber, Inc., the Missoula Field Office completed a pilot project which treated 26 acres near Garnet. This successfully demonstrated that hazardous forest fuels could be reduced without damaging cultural and historic features.
During Phase II, through a stewardship contract with Pyramid Mountain Lumber Co., an additional 304 acres surrounding Garnet and Coloma were treated. The treatment included the mechanical removal and utilization of hazardous fuels through a variety of methods. The collaborative nature of this project allowed for the enhancement of public educational opportunities with regard to fire and hazardous fuel reduction. The project also included the construction of approximately two miles of new interpretive trails that enhance visitor experiences at Garnet.