Reducing Wildfire Risk and Improving Forest Health On Your Property

The 2015 wildfire season is well behind us and the most of the forests in our region are blanketed in snow. There is no better time to start thinking about wildfire risk on your property and how your forest management actions might increase the overall health of the forest on your land. Fall, winter, and spring are great times to work on your forest; picking away at a list of management actions each year will help you move your forest into a more resilient state that can resist pressures from disease, insect infestations, and climatic stressors like too much or too little precipitation and temperature.  If wildfire risk is your biggest concern, especially if your home is located within a closed canopy forest, Fire Safe Montana, and Firewise will help you determine your risk and present a number of options for treatment around your home.  This diagram presents a realistic picture of how you might start considering wildfire protection zones around your home. If you live in a rural subdivision; you might consider developing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP); that can be shared with your local fire station. A CWPP will help emergency responders safely and quickly protect your rural community from harm, while also protecting the lives of firefighters that are responding to your neighborhood to protect your homes.  There are many documents that can help you develop a CWPP including “Ready Set Go!” which provides a platform for starting a wildfire preparedness conversation with your neighbors and local emergency responders.

Sometimes you can receive financial assistance to reduce the risk of wildfire and improve your forest’s health. Over the last couple of years, Gallatin Valley Land Trust has partnered with the Gallatin, Meagher, and Park Counties; Natural Resource Program to secure grant funding from a number of sources that allows us to offset the cost of beneficial forest management. In particular we recently received a grant from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to help landowners in theBridger and Bangtail Watersheds. We developed a useful Fire Hazard Zone diagram that will help you visualize your current risk and develop a strategy for future years of management actions. We developed this program in response to conversations with landowners and after observing fire behavior and prevalence in the Bridger and Bangtail mountains, especially after the significant impacts that were realized over the last several years due to Spruce Bud Worm and Mountain Pine Beetle infestations. If early winter is your time to start thinking about wildfire preparedness, then you might find this National Geographic video “Surrounded by Fire’ interesting and motivating to watch.