The State of Montana, Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, opened bids on the Elk Gem Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) Timber Sale today as part of a growing state-federal partnership to increase management activities and restoration outcomes on federal lands in Montana.
Idaho Forest Group submitted the winning bid to purchase the sale located south of Heron in Sanders County. Approximately 2.7 million board feet of Douglas Fir and dead and dying lodgepole pine from 184 acres will be removed within the Elk Gem timber sale area. Benefits of this forest restoration project include: decrease in wildfire intensity and severity; increase in safety to Recreation areas and users as well as firefighters; and a forest with more age diversity and resilience to future insect and disease outbreaks.
The Elk Gem timber sale will result in approximately $222,000.00 dollars available for investments into other restorations activities such as hazardous fuels reduction, weed spraying, and stream improvement projects.
This is the first time the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) has used federal authority to oversee the harvest of federal timber on the Kootenai National Forest. The DNRC and the Northern Region of the Forest Service have more GNA projects scheduled for the future and are working to establish a robust program of work to fully utilize GNA in the state of Montana.
GNA allows the State, Forest Service, and outside partners to align objectives to improve forest health, reduce wildfire threats to communities, create jobs, and produce economic benefits from Montana’s National Forests.
“We recognize the need and benefits of resource and vegetation management on all lands,” states Chris Savage, Kootenai National Forest Supervisor. “I am very proud of the foresight, collaboration, and cooperation of employees on the Kootenai National Forest and the MT Department of Natural Resources and Conservation as they shaped the way for this and future collaborative efforts to advance restoration work on the ground across the state. GNA added the needed capacity to get this project done.”
The Elk Gem GNA timber sale is part of a larger Forest Service project called Elk Rice, which was developed by the Kootenai National Forest in collaboration with the Cabinet Forestry Collaborative, Elk Creek Watershed Council, and the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition. Under 2014 Farm Bill Insect and Disease Authorities, nearly the entire Kootenai National Forest was included in Governor Bullock’s request as a Priority Landscape designation, which was approved by the Chief of the Forest Service. The first Elk Rice timber sale will treat 855 acres of forests impacted by root disease and bark beetles in wildland urban interface areas, for a combined treatment of over 1,039 acres in this Priority Landscape, thus far. Another GNA timber sale, in this area, is scheduled to be offered in 2019. Strengthening the federal/state partnership is, in turn, providing more tools to increase the rate at which forests are treated.
The Elk Gem timber sale along with other GNA projects planned across Montana’s forests are the result of many years of hard work and commitment between the DNRC, U.S. Forest Service, local government, industry partners, conservation organizations, collaborative and watershed groups, and other partners.