Wildfire is a integral part of the Montana landscape. The suppression of fire of the last several decades has resulted in high level of fuel in our forests and created the need of fire mitigation programs.
The purpose of fire mitigation programs is to reduce fire risk, and protect life and the values of at-risk properties and natural resources. Secondarily, fire mitigation programs improve forest health while increasing the vigor and resiliency of our forest.
Three factors influence behavior of wildfire: 1) fuels; 2) weather; and, 3) topography. Fuels is the only factor that we individuals and communities have control over. Reducing fuels on, in and around properties increases the probability the structures on and properties themselves will survive and be more resilient in the face of wildfires.
In the Bitteroot area of Montana, the Bitter Root Resource Conservation & Development (Bitter Root RC&D) is combating the dangers of wildfire by reducing fuels through their fire mitigation program: the Hazardous Fuels Reduction Fuel Mitigation Grant Program. The program is a 50 / 50 cost-share in the form of a grant from the Bitter Root RC&D, which is based in the Hamilton, Montana. The program provides financial assistance to landowners and communities in the Wildland-Urban Interface within Missoula, Mineral & Ravalli counties in three ways:
- Assistance to private landowners and communities to reduce hazardous fuels while improving forest health on private lands;
- Helping landowners create and maintain defensible space around their homes from wildland fire; and,
- Improving the health and vigor of private forestlands.
Since beginning in 2000, the program has administered cost-share grants totaling approximately $8 million.
The Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program helps serve the larger mission of the Bitter Root RC&D, which is to provide leadership and support on natural and community resource issues and projects in the service area of Missoula, Mineral, and Ravalli counties, and beyond, by facilitating the planning, coordination, and implementation of initiatives which promote a sustainable rural life for current and future generations.
If you or someone you know owns property in one of these three counties and is interested in the Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program, you can find out more and apply on the Bitter Root RC&D website.