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Removing Invasive Plants and Pioneering New Forest Restoration Efforts in Montana
The Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative Project is pioneering new forest restoration efforts across 1.5 million acres in western Montana. The project is uniting the goals of forest health and jobs that will restore clean water, improve wildlife habitat for elk and grizzly bears, and create economic opportunities for a skilled workforce.
Summary of Action and Outcome
Community groups were led by environmental groups to carry out invasive plant removal. Herbicide application, tree stand thinning, and prescribed burning were used to remove the invasive species. Resulting improvement in forest health lowered fire risk, leaving surrounding communities safer.
Congress authorized appropriation of up to $40M annually for Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) project implementation and monitoring to cover up to 50 percent of these costs, with no more than $4M going to any one project. The Forest Service funding shown here is the lifelong request for CFLRP funding. Forest Service and partner match funds, as well as goods for services through stewardship contracts, are leveraged to cover the remaining costs of the projects. Total annual expenditures are given in project annual reports.
All CFLRP projects were selected by a Federal Advisory Committee. Details on project proposals can be found here.
For up-to-date project information, see the annual reports on the “Results” page of the USFS CFLRP website.
The Long-Term Southwest Crown Collaboration (SWCC) Monitoring Plan, project summaries, and the Five-Year Monitoring Summary Report are available on the SWCC website.
- Herbicide Effectiveness Monitoring. Fourteen monitoring sites across the SW Crown are established. The plots measure responses of non-native and native species abundance under multiple treatments: herbicide only, seeded (with native species) only, herbicide and seeded, and controls (no seeding or herbicide). Sites have been monitored pre-treatment and up to three years post-treatment, including in FY15.
- Seed Survival. This project is monitoring seed mix germination and survival (persisting into the next growing season) on low- to mid-elevation, moisture-stressed sites throughout the SW Crown planning area, including landings, decommissioned roads, and mining rehabilitation sites. We are also evaluating the effectiveness of landing rehabilitation techniques on soil processes and function.
- Integrated Forest Vegetation Plots. Data from pre-treatment monitoring was cleaned and entered into the Forest Service database.
- Carnivore Monitoring. Additional track survey, bait stations, and DNA monitoring occurred in FY15. Also completed in FY15 was data analysis and report compilation for FY11–FY14 monitoring.
Monitoring Coordinator. The coordinator has been invaluable in managing the entire multi-party monitoring program. FY15 work included: completed a Five-Year Monitoring Program Summary; coordinated the Monitoring Committee and its four working groups including internal and outside groups; hosted a two-day Adaptive Management Workshop; continued to develop citizen science opportunities in the landscape; assisted the collaborative in providing input to the Blackfoot Swan Landscape Restoration Project Assessment; coordinated with line officers, regional, forest, and district staff, and the SWCC Liaison Officer.
Members of the SWCC Monitoring Committee have expanded existing efforts and partnerships through “citizen science” monitoring as a means to engage and inform local communities about climate and natural resource issues. Partners are now working with schools in four different communities to monitor stream and forest conditions.
Challenges continue to include moving projects through the NEPA process to have acres available to treat, and having days with favorable burning windows.
The project has accomplished more than planned in seven of the SWCC restoration goals, including:
- Green tons from small diameter and low value trees removed from NFS lands and made available for bio-energy production;
- Timber volume harvested;
- Miles of stream habitat restored or enhanced;
- Acres of terrestrial habitat restored or enhanced;
- Acres of forestland vegetation improved; and
- Miles of trails maintained and improved.
In 2015, $253,000 of SWCC CFLRP funds were used in fire transfer. This reduced both invasive weeds and road work accomplishments, including stream crossings.
Concrete costs rose over 25 percent in one year, resulting in bids over planned costs for replacing the Morrell Creek Rd. 4381 bridge. Two culverts planned for removal in Drew Creek were not implemented because the work did not fall into a NEPA categorical exclusion category as originally believed.
Though we harvested more than planned in WorkPlan, we only accomplished 11 percent of our planned Timber Volume Sold due to a delay in the Stonewall Vegetation Management Decision and Cold Jim projects. After an Objection Resolution meeting in July, a new Stonewall Vegetation Management FEIS was released the end of August. A final decision is planned in FY16. Litigation work on Glacier Loon delayed the decisions for Chilly James and Cold Jim, resulting in delay of FNF implementing stewardship restoration for WUI, aquatic habitat, wetlands restoration, and road decommissioning, as well as timber sold.
Not all planned fuel treatments in the WUI were accomplished due to a narrow prescribed burning window.