HELENA, MT (STL.News) Governor Greg Gianforte today invited U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to Montana to chart a clear path forward to address the state’s unprecedented wildland fire risk and forest health issues.
“Montana is facing unprecedented wildland fire risk and forest health conditions that threaten our homes, communities, and economy,” Gov. Gianforte wrote in a letter to Sec. Vilsack. “Through cross-boundary coordination and initiatives funded and prioritized by both of our agencies, we’re taking action to mitigate the risk of fire to Montanans. But more must be done.”
The Montana Forest Action Plan identifies 3.8 million acres as the state’s highest priority for management, 60% of which are on federal land.
Under the governor’s leadership, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation more than doubled the number of forested acres treated in 2021 from 2020.
As the state of Montana increases the pace and scale of active forest management, the governor asks the USDA to commit to doing the same.
“When I took office, I made forest management a top priority,” wrote Gov. Gianforte. “To succeed with our forest management and wildfire reduction goals, we need the USDA to commit to increasing the pace and scale of management with us. Not only is collaboration the Montana way, but it is the only way to accomplish our shared goals.”
The governor specifically asks for the USDA’s commitment to:
- Formalize the use of the Montana Forest Action Plan
- Commit to directing more funds and resources towards private land work
- Continue to support and expand the Good Neighbor Authority
- Complete the Lincoln County Shared Stewardship agreement and follow suit on other local projects
“By working on these priorities together, we will make our forests more resilient and healthier for generations of Montanans to come,” Gov. Gianforte concluded.