Daines, Gianforte praise salvage plans on Kootenai National Forest

A post-fire restoration project set for 3,000 acres on the Kootenai National Forest will produce 27 million board feet of timber and reforest 4,100 acres with native trees, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte said this week.

The state’s two Republican lawmakers, who have pushed for reforms in forest management, said the West Fork Fire Salvage and Restoration Project will begin in August in areas of the Kootenai that burned during last year’s long-running fire season.

“Last year’s wildfires devastated our forests and harmed communities,” said Daines. “This critical project will restore areas on the Kootenai National Forest devastated by last year’s West Fork fire while supporting good-paying Montana timber jobs.”

Daines and Gianforte – as did Sen. Jon Tester – added provisions to the recent federal spending bill and Farm Bill aimed at reforms in forest management. That included categorical exclusions intended to streamline fuel reduction after fires and bring more timber to Montana mills.

The Kootenai project will result in roughly $2.9 million in revenue by removing an estimated 27 million board feet of timber. Of the 21,800 acres burned in the West Fork fire, 9,000 acres were severely burned, and 42 percent of those trees are dead or expected to die.

“I have worked toward a legislative solution that expands salvage operations and have urged the Forest Service to be more assertive with the authority Congress has given them to expedite salvage work,” Gianforte said in a statement. “I am pleased to see this important project move forward to improve the health of the Kootenai National Forest. It’s good for the forest, good for wildlife, good for the local economy, and good for Montana jobs.”