Article from The Missoulian today, below….
Here’s the relevant language from the Farm Bill:
INITIAL AREAS.—Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of the Agricultural Act of 2014, the Secretary shall, if requested by the Governor of the State, designate as part of an insect and disease treatment program 1 or more landscape scale areas, such as subwatersheds (sixth-level hydrologic units, according to the System of Hydrologic Unit Codes of the United States Geological Survey), in at least 1 national forest in each State that is experiencing an insect or disease epidemic.
Have other governors requested designations?
Bullock asks U.S. Forest Service to focus restoration on 5.1M acres in state
By Rob Chaney
Gov. Steve Bullock has asked the U.S. Forest Service to concentrate its restoration efforts on 5.1 million acres of timberland local advocates believe are most at risk from insect damage in the next 15 years.
A provision in the recently passed federal farm bill asked governors across the nation to advise the Forest Service on priority landscapes where they’d like the agency to focus its management efforts.
Montana State Forester Bob Harrington said Bullock’s choices reflected long-standing local interests.
“We want to reward those collaboratives that came together to compromise and agree on projects,” Harrington said Monday. “This is a way to restore and prepare landscapes for what we know is coming in the future.”
But while the farm bill gave governors the authority to prioritize these areas, it did not provide any funding for work to be done.
“There’s no new money to implement these titles,” Harrington said. “That will be a big part of the discussion, because without funding to conduct analysis and have staff on the ground, we’re not going to make a lot of progress. But this helps with reprioritizing the (Forest Service) budget and workload to refocus priority on some of these landscapes. I hope we can use the momentum behind the farm bill to build partnerships with the states and Forest Service. There’s huge potential, and it would be good to have funding follow.”
Work would range from hazardous fuels removal to commercial logging. It would also include habitat restoration, road repair or removal, fisheries improvements and recreation facilities. The lands chosen either have serious bug infestations, are at risk of infestation or have hazardous fire conditions threatening residential areas or infrastructure.
Bullock nominated priority lands in the Lolo, Bitterroot, Flathead, Helena-Lewis and Clark, Kootenai, Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Custer-Gallatin national forests. His suggestions ranged from 54 percent of the Lolo’s 2.1 million acres to 12 percent of the Custer-Gallatin’s 2.9 million acres.
“With these nominations I want to prioritize and focus the efforts of the USDA Forest Service to create jobs by increasing both the pace and scale of forest restoration, and strengthen the role of local citizen collaboratives in those efforts,” Bullock said in a letter to Forest Service associate deputy chief Tony Tooke. “My proposals do not include any areas such as recommended wilderness, wilderness study areas, or wilderness designated by Congress.”
Bullock did include some acres of federal inventoried roadless lands in the Helena and Gallatin-Custer national forests he said were threatened by high wildfire risk and were near homes or municipal watersheds.
Harrington said the governor relied on local collaborative groups and lumber mills to suggest priority landscapes. In the Lolo National Forest, that included the Southwest Crown of the Continent Collaborative, Lolo Forest Restoration Committee, Mineral and Sanders county resource advisory committees, Tricon Timber Co., Thompson River Lumber Co., Roseburg Forest Products and Pyramid Mountain Lumber.