Good Neighbor Authority Increases Capacity for Wildland Fire Protection in South Hills area near Helena
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: February 18, 2020

HELENA, Mont. (February 13, 2020) – The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest is working in close partnership with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) to increase the amount of forest restoration and wildland fire protection accomplished on national forest system lands through the Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) agreement. GNA aims to improve conditions for public and firefighter safety in the event of a wildfire, and the Brooklyn Bridge portion of the Tenmile-South Helena project immediately adjacent to the community of Helena, MT is identified as a high priority area for treatment for both agencies due to high wildfire risk.

Under the authority of the 2018 Farm Bill, GNA allows the U.S. Forest Service to partner with the State of Montana to achieve forest management objectives and restoration by utilizing state contracts to carry out forest, rangeland, and watershed restoration services on Forest Service lands. GNA adds capacity to the federal agency to increase the amount of work collectively accomplished on federal ground while maintaining program income within Montana to help local communities. GNA also offers a unique opportunity to carry out the goals of Governor Bullock’s Forests in Focus 2.0, which prioritizes cross-boundary management and the amplification of the collaborative efforts, like the Brooklyn Bridge portion of the Tenmile-South Helena project, to achieve landscape scale forest restoration. Both the Forest Service and DNRC are committed to working closely with partners and investing time, money, and energy in tools and authorities that work.

“Commercial and non-commercial hazardous fuels vegetation treatments will be accelerated based on DNRC and Forest Service staff working jointly to complement existing wildfire response strategies and tactics. These treatments allow fire managers to safely and efficiently manage fire by utilizing past treatments in the area and creating a buffer between private land and National Forest system lands,” says Bill Avey, Forest Supervisor for the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest.  “This is a great example of shared stewardship for the public benefit.”

“By working with our federal partners to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, our Montana communities will be safer from wildfire risk,” said Hoyt Richards, Central Office Area Land Manager for the DNRC. “The Brooklyn Bridge section of the Tenmile-South Helena project is an important opportunity for us to align our objectives of improving forest health, reducing wildfire risk, and producing economic benefits from our national forests for local communities.”

Additionally, DNRC will assist the Forest Service with pre-commercial thinning, mechanical and hand fuels treatments, and noxious weed treatments. DNRC plans to further support this project by advertising and awarding a timber sale contract and providing contract administration. This partnership allows both agencies to work together to get needed fuels work accomplished in a timely and efficient manner while improving wildland fire protection for State protected lands. Project implementation is expected to begin early Summer 2020.