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My Public Lands

Don't Bug Montana

In a place called Big Timber, the small mountain pine beetle has taken its toll.

story by BLM Staff, Montana/Dakotas
illustration by Matt Christenson, BLM Oregon

In a number of surrounding areas, the destructive beetle has killed up to 90 percent of the lodgepole pines. According to BLM forester Bruce Reid, "You can almost hear them chewing though the trees on quiet days."

Also in Big Timber is the Green Mountain Forest Health Project. Thanks to this partnership between the BLM, the State and adjacent landowners, the area impacted by the beetle is on the road to recovery.

The BLM, State of Montana, Stillwater Mine, Lion's Head Ranch, RY Timber, and other cooperators are working together to harvest and salvage about 2 million board feet of insect-infested and diseased timber on 335 acres of BLM, Stillwater Mine and Lion's Head lands.

The objectives are ambitious: to improve forest health and stand diversity, develop a cooperative road system, enhance public access, reduce hazardous fuels and decrease insect and disease damage.

Now in the timber salvage phase, the project is the result of several years' of planning, hard work and coordination. Billings Field Manager Jim Sparks says the work "is really a true success story."

The clear benefit of removing dead and dying trees is reducing hazardous fuels and thus the potential for catastrophic wildfire. But the Green Mountain project will also result in about $100,000 for the American people while boosting the local economy. This is the first large-scale sale timber salvage project for the BLM's Billings Field office in many years.

Craig Howells, a fuels specialist for the BLM and longtime Montana resident, highlighted the community aspects of the project. "It's a project involving both federal and local land owners," he said. "The contractor harvesting the timber is based in Montana and the logs are being processed at a mill near here. It's a true collaboration benefiting the land but also benefiting the Montana economy."

"It's our responsibility to manage the land for long-term stewardship and public enjoyment," Reid points out. "Forest Health is hazardous fuels reduction, wildlife habitat, and economic boost. It's not just logging."

You might say, the Green Mountain Forest Health project is seeing the forest for the trees.