Timber sale part of new initiative

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The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation announced last week it has awarded the winning bid for the Liger Good Neighbor Authority timber sale to a Kalispell-based logging company.

The 386-acre sale involves timber on the Flathead National Forest that is southeast of Hungry Horse and Martin City in Flathead County.

The Liger sale is Montana’s third forest-management project to date utilizing Good Neighbor Authority, an initiative that allows the state to manage the harvest of timber on federal lands. Liger is the first Good Neighbor Authority project to take place on the Flathead National Forest.

St. Onge Logging of Kalispell submitted the winning bid.

John Grassy, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, said the Forest Service conducted the environmental analysis for the project and issued in August a “finding of no significant impact” and decision.

The project was then known as the Hungry Lion Resource Management Project.

The state agency said the sale will produce about 1.6 million board feet of timber.

Forest managers with the state and U.S. Forest Service say the restoration project will decrease wildfire intensity and severity while increasing safety for adjacent landowners and firefighters and will produce a forest with more age diversity and resilience to future insect and disease outbreaks.

The state said in a news release that the Liger project will generate about $376,798 and noted this money “will be reinvested into future projects such as hazardous fuels reduction, forest restoration, weed spraying and stream improvement activities.”

The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the Northern Region of the Forest Service said they have more Good Neighbor Authority projects scheduled for the future and “are working to establish a robust program of work to utilize Good Neighbor Authority on other national forest lands in Montana.”

Sonya Germann, forestry division administrator for the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, said the Good Neighbor Authority “allows the state, Forest Service and other partners to improve forest health, reduce wildfire threats to communities, create jobs and produce economic benefits from Montana’s National Forests.”

Chip Weber, forest supervisor of the Flathead National Forest, said he was “proud of the foresight and collaboration of employees on the Flathead National Forest and the state as they forged the way for this and future collaborative efforts to advance restoration work on the ground across the state.”

Under 2018 Farm Bill authority, the Flathead National Forest and Department of Natural Resources and Conservation identified areas around the communities of Hungry Horse, Martin City, Coram and West Glacier to be included in Gov. Steve Bullock’s request for Priority Landscape designation, which was approved by the chief of the Forest Service.

The Liger sale and other Good Neighbor Authority projects planned across Montana’s forests follow years of work between the state, U.S. Forest Service, local government, industry partners, conservation organizations, collaborative and watershed groups, and other partners, according to the news release.

The Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition has said the Good Neighbor Authority is intended to expand federal capacity to “implement and plan forest, rangeland and watershed restoration projects by facilitating partnerships with state agencies.” The authority allows a state to conduct authorized restoration activities on federal land, the coalition said.

Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at dadams@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4407.

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