Firewise USA

The North Fork’s membership in FireWise Communities USA has been renewed for 2012, based on our efforts in 2011. The North Fork has been a member of FireWise since 2006.
One of the requirements for membership is an annual FireWise Day. Last year’s FireWise Day featured a workshop and field trip on forest insects and disease, and their relationship to wildfire.

Members of the Fire Mitigation Committee are planning the North Fork’s 2012 FireWise Day. The event will be held from 9:30a.m. to noon on Wednesday, July 11, 2012 in Sondreson Hall, immediately preceding the Summer Inter Local meeting. The subject this year will be “Stewardship, Forest Health and Hazardous Fuels Reduction.”

Firesafe Montana

The Fire Mitigation Committee has applied for membership in FireSafe Montana, with a waiver of annual dues. The committee anticipates that FireSafe will assist us with our 2012 FireWise Day.

FireSafe is sponsoring a conference at the QuaTukNuk in Polson on April 9 – 10, 2010. The theme of the conference is “Responsible Wildfire Preparedness: How FireSafe Councils Can Help.” The conference will give participants an opportunity to learn about the latest research findings, management innovations and best practices in Montana. North Fork landowners are encouraged to attend.

The North Fork: Living with Wildlife

“The North Fork: Living with Wildlife” is a joint NFLA/NFPA publication that outlines recommendations on how to live responsibly in wildlife habitat and suggests specific ways to minimize the chances of conflict with such animals as grizzly bears, black bears, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, deer, elk and moose. This is an excellent brochure for new and current landowners alike. It also includes some wonderful illustrations by Diane Boyd. You can download this brochure from here.

Fire Mitigation Report, Sept. 2011

The DNRC recently notified the Fire Mitigation Committee that its grant proposal had been approved and that funding authority had been secured.  The amount of the grant is approximately $99,600.  As with previous grants, monies will be disbursed on a cost-share basis, with the grant providing 75% of the cost of treatment and the landowner providing 25%.  Landowner contributions may be “in-kind.”  The total value of the grant, including landowners’ share, is approximately $133,000.

The DNRC will send the committee a proposed agreement for consideration; the grant is not final until a signed agreement is in hand.  Tentatively, Angela Mallon of the DNRC will attend the June 2012 NFLA meeting to explain the program.  Also tentatively, the Flathead Economic Policy Center will administer the grant.

The committee has been in touch with the Executive Director of FireSafe Montana.  The North Fork is a member of FireSafe; the organization waived payment of dues for the current year.  FireSafe is willing and able to assist the Fire Mitigation Committee with its annual FireWise Day if asked to do so.  The brochures that FireSafe provided earlier in the year are still available in Sondreson Hall.

Grant possibility

The North Fork applied for a Western States fuels mitigation grant in 2010, part of a consortium of communities.  The application was rejected and the Fire Mitigation Committee decided to look into the possibility of a applying for a stand-alone grant for the North Fork.

This spring, committee members have discussed grant possibilities informally with the DNRC.  The agency determines grant funding in Montana.  Basically, any new grant would continue our successful cost-share fuels mitigation program.   Committee members are cautiously optimistic about our chances, if any monies become available.

Firesafe Montana

Firesafe Montana is a non-profit organization that helps to educate Montana communities about wildfire.   Its executive director attended the Fire Mitigation Committee meeting in April, 2011 to explain the program.  He offered to waive the membership fee for one year to enable North Fork landowners to become familiar with Firesafe and what it can do for us.  The NFLA Board of Directors accepted the offer.

Federal and State Projects

Larry Roberts of LTL Forestry purchased the Forest Service’s “Red Dwarf” project last February.  The project will reduce fuels and improve ingress and egress along East Red Meadow Drive.  The contractor will begin work in July and must complete it by August.

The Red Whale project has been split into several parts.   The Forest Service will do some precommercial thinning under contracts and some with its own forces.  The commercial portions of the project will be sold through two stewardship contracts.  The first contract will be awarded this spring; work will begin in July.  The second contract will be awarded the end of June.

Harvesting on the DNRC’s North Fork X 2 timber sale project was completed last winter.  Anticipated actions this summer and fall include final blading, reclamation  and grass seeding of roads; slashing some of the saplings and logging damage in the harvest units; and piling and burning of slash.

The DNRC is completing its environmental assessment of a project on the Coal Creek State Forest.  It’s possible but unlikely that there will be some logging activity this fall.  Road reconstruction work on the Coal Creek Road slump is scheduled to take place in early September, 2011.

Fire Mitigation Update, Spring 2011

The Fire Mitigation Committee met in early April to plan activities for the 2011 fire season.  Although details aren’t yet available, the committee expects to sponsor a workshop and field trip on forest insects and disease in late June.  The workshop, which would serve as the North Fork’s annual Firewise Day, also would consider the relationship between wildfire susceptibility and dead and dying trees.  In addition, the committee hopes to offer practical training and assessment for landowners who want to address wildfire risks around their home.  The training may be offered in conjunction with Firesafe Montana. 
     If the opportunity arises, the committee will apply for another cost-share grant to assist landowners with fuels reduction on their properties.  Funds from our two previous grants have been exhausted.

Sales of the Forest Service’s long-awaited Red Whale Project are underway

Hungry Horse/Glacier View Ranger Jimmy DeHerrera reports that the Red Dwarf portion of the project was awarded last fall.  Larry Roberts of LTL Forestry purchased the small sale, which abuts Red Meadow Drive.  Reducing fuels on Forest Service property in the area has long been a priority for neighboring landowners and for the Fire Mitigation Committee.  LTL elected not to start work until July, 2011.  Work must be completed by the end of September, 2011.

The principal portion of the Red Whale Project covers about 1040 acres and features both mechanical thinning and prescribed burning.  The Forest Service accomplished some of the precommercial thinning last year with its own work forces.  According to DeHerrera, the agency will do more precommercial thinning in the summer of 2011, both under contracts and with its forces.

The commercial timber portions of Red Whale will be sold through two stewardship contracts.  DeHerrera anticipates that the first contract will be awarded around the end of April.  The purchaser will begin work in July.  The second contract will be awarded around the end of June.

Grant Not Awarded

The Northwest Regional Resource Conservation & Development Council (RC&D) recently filed a joint application for a Western States fuels mitigation grant on behalf of the North Fork and several other Northwest Montana communities. It was necessary to combine with other communities because the minimum grant amount was larger than any of the communities could use individually. The North Fork’s share of the grant would have been $100,000. We learned in September 2010 that the grant application had not been approved.

Another fuels mitigation grant opportunity may arise under the Stevens Act in the spring of 2011. Stevens Act grants may be for lesser amounts than Western State grants. If given the chance, the Fire Mitigation Committee will consider applying for a $100,000 stand-alone grant on behalf of the North Fork. Funds made available to North Fork landowners by two previous fuels mitigation grants have been exhausted.