USDA and local partners work to reduce wildfire risk

United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Forest Service is working to fund the Capital 360 partnership across private and public lands. NRCS projects will use Environmental Quality Incentives Program funds.

While EQIP applications are accepted year-round, applications for the Capital 360 initiative must be received by May 18 to be considered for this funding period.

Contact your local USDA field office for more information and to apply. In Broadwater, contact Justin Meissner at 406-266-3146, ext. 103. In Jefferson County, contact Nancy Sweeney at 406-287-3215, ext. 301. In Lewis and Clark County, contact John George at 406-449-5000, ext. 101. In Powell County, contact Glen Green at 406-415-4040.

“The Capital 360 landscape restoration efforts continue to build on the successful implementation of smaller-scale fuels reduction projects by many partners in the project area,” said Lori Ziehr, acting state conservationist for NRCS in Montana.

Other partners in the Capital 360 project area include the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Tri-County FireSafe Working Group, City of Helena and the Bureau of Land Management.

Mortality associated with the mountain pine beetle is prevalent on more than 75 percent of the project area, resulting in above average fuel loading that could result in a high-intensity/high-severity wildfire. Conifers are also colonizing native grass and shrublands in the project area. Single-species colonization leads to a reduction of habitat diversity and wildlife forage while adding to the risk of large fire growth.

“Improving forest health and resiliency in the Capital 360 project area will provide multiple benefits to the communities in the area, including a reduced risk of large-scale wildfires that have the potential to impact their homes, community infrastructure and backyard recreation areas,” said Ziehr. “These communities will enjoy greater security when wildfires occur due to improved conditions for suppression operations.”