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Gianforte commends firefighters, calls for better forest management

Gov. Greg Gianforte is praising the hard work of firefighters, and the collaborative efforts of Montana communities in battling the worst fire season in nearly five years. And the governor and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines are renewing calls for better forest management.

Gianforte made those comments Wednesday as he was joined by fellow Republican Daines in a press conference with firefighters, leaders of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, local fire departments and the U.S. Forest Service in Missoula.

Gianforte noted the severity of this season, which began with record-setting heat and a lack of rainfall weeks sooner than expected. Both he and Daines, as well as the agency leaders, repeatedly touched on the danger of the intense season that’s led to serious injuries.

“These tragic incidents are a reminder that firefighting is dangerous, noble work,” Gianforte said in prepared remarks. “Our firefighters deserve our utmost respect and appreciation and they deserve our support and efforts to prevent wildland fire starts.”

In addition to the collaboration, there was a message of commendation for Montana National Guard training over 500 personal for frontline fire duty, and thanks to other regions of the country for sending help as Montana resources were stretched thin.

“I cannot understate just how important this surge of capacity has been,” DNRC Director Amanda Kaster said. “Together we have worked to provide safe and effective fire response during a historically dry summer.

Sen. Steve Daines, left, and Gov. Greg Gianforte, right, talk with firefighters in Missoula. (KPAX image)

But beyond fighting fires, both Daines and Gianforte said more needs to be done for active forest management.

“We can reduce the impact of wildfires. We can improve wildlife habitat. We can protect watersheds and, importantly, can provide work for loggers on our sawmills,” Daines said, repeating a theme he’s espoused for several years.

“And I think earlier this spring there are many who wished we had more lumber coming out of our sawmills when we saw the price spike.”