Bitterroot Valley officials welcomed last week's announcement of funding for a 3-year project, "Fire Adapted Bitterroot," which brings together the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Bitterroot National Forest (BNF) and a number of other partners to try to reduce the threat of devastating wildfires.

The USDA's Joint Chiefs' Landscape Restoration Partnership is in response to the ever-lengthening and ever-larger forest fires in the country. Tod McKay of the Bitterroot National Forest noted in a news release that the Montana Forest Action Plan identified Ravalli County has having the greatest risk from wildfires in the whole state.

The current plan would treat over 10,000 acres of overstocked National Forest land that border private property or are near homes during the next three years. The NRCS would work on private forests, with coordination of the Bitterroot Conservation District and the Bitter Root RC&D. Much of the work will include prescribed fire, commercial and non-commercial timber harvests.

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Byron Bonney, Bitter Root Resource Conservation and Development Community Forester said in a news release, "This is a great opportunity for the Bitterroot National Forest and Bitter Root RC&D to work together to reduce fire risks on private land and National Forest lands near private land to protect lives, property and any values at risk from threatening wildfires. This will be done through joint planning and implementation to promote cross boundary projects to meet that goal."

Stacy Welling, NRCS District Conservationist, said, "Fire Adapted Bitterroot is an excellent example of interagency partnerships and collaboration...The need for treatments is significant and this opportunity will really give us the resources to get treatments on the ground."

Bitterroot Forest Supervisor Matt Anderson summed it up, saying, "This project includes the right work, in the right place, at the right time."

The partners also include the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Ravalli County, Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Montana Wild Sheep Foundation, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Ravalli County Collaborative, and the Ravalli County Resource Advisory Committee.

For more information, contact Steve Brown, BNF Stevensville District Ranger 406 777-5461 or Stacy Welling, NRCS district office, 406 361-6186.

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