The Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative and the Flathead, Helena-Lewis and Clark, and Lolo National Forests received the 2016 Forest Service Chief’s Award for Sustaining Forests and Grasslands through the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). The award was accepted on behalf of the Collaborative and the Forests on December 8, at a ceremony in Washington DC by Tim Garcia, Lolo National Forest Supervisor. The recipients were chosen from over 80 nominations across five different categories.
In response to the need for landscape restoration, a number of people representing a diverse array of interests came together to form the Southwestern Crown Collaborative and worked together with the three National Forests to develop a landscape restoration strategy for the SW Crown. In order to achieve the goals laid out in the strategy, the Collaborative developed a proposal for the Department of Agriculture’s Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) and submitted it for national competition in 2010. The SW Crown project was selected as one of the initial ten landscape restoration efforts nationally.
Participants include local and national non-profit organizations, county and state government, University of Montana, and private citizens. “Many team members make this landscape restoration effort a success,” said Lolo Forest Supervisor, Tim Garcia. “The Collaborative’s CFLRP proposal outlined a 10-year program of restoration work on National Forest System lands focused on reducing the risk of fire to rural communities, restoring forest and aquatic ecosystems to their natural trajectory, improving ecosystem sustainability in the face of predicted climate change and boosting rural economies.”
“Being a member of the collaborative has provided our local organization a voice at the table and a better understanding of how partners can work with the Forest Service to accomplish restoration goals,” said Collaborative Co-chair and Blackfoot Challenge Director Gary Burnett. “We have developed a better understanding of how the agency works and they’ve recognized the value of working through partnership agreements to accomplish more than they could have by themselves.”
The Southwestern Crown of the Continent landscape covers almost 1.5 million acres in western Montana and stretches west from Roger’s Pass near Lincoln, to Potomac along the Blackfoot River, and north to Swan Lake. This landscape is characterized by a strong culture of collaboration and has benefited from public and private investments aimed at improving ecological function and enhancing the local economies.
Since the project’s start in 2010, the program has completed: Over 130 miles of stream restoration; over 14,000 acres of fuel reduction within the wildland urban interface; over 20,000 acres of forest restoration through prescribed fire, planting, and thinning; over 46,000 acres of weed abatement with emphasis on roads and concentrated use areas; over 240 miles of road upgrades and improvements; over 90 miles of road decommissioning; and over 38 stream crossing improvements.
The program has also helped fund inspection stations for aquatic invasive species in the Swan and Clearwater basins and helped protect bull trout and cutthroat trout populations through non-native fish suppression. With the variety of restoration work performed over the first seven years it is estimated that over 200 jobs have been created and over 130 million board feet of wood fiber provided to local mills. Funded projects provide a diversity of work for both small and large contractors and timber purchasers.
“Monitoring the effectiveness of the restoration work has also been a priority,” said Cory Davis, SW Crown Monitoring Coordinator. “Four monitoring working groups, with the assistance of seventeen organizations, develop and manage an annual monitoring program covering resource questions on wildlife, aquatic systems, vegetation, and socioeconomic impacts. Some topics include carnivores, road sediment delivery, stream condition, native trout genetics, and local economic impacts. Monitoring efforts also include citizen science and youth engagement. Results from monitoring are used to improve future management activities.”
For more information regarding the SW Crown Collaborative visit http://www.swcrown.org/.