MISSOULA — Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-MT) and USDA Undersecretary James Hubbard hosted a round table discussion about forest management on Thursday in Missoula.
Rep. Gianforte said Montana is dealing with a forest health crisis, but organizations are making progress.
"The Good Neighbor Authority, which is a new piece of capability that's in this most recent Farm Bill, was expanded to county commissioners, so we're doing projects at a local level," Gianforte said. "But we still have a litigation problem that's preventing us from getting and doing active forest management."
Representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, lumber mills, and hunting groups were present for Thursday's discussion. Some on hand said forests are overgrown, and under-managed, causing problems for the wildlife and nearby communities.
Undersecretary Hubbard said that despite a relatively calm wildland fire season in Western Montana, fires are still a risk of untreated land.
"We know that we can't treat all of it, we don't intend to. Unplanned wildfire will be a dominant factor on the landscape for the forseeable future, but there are certain places we don't want that to happen because of the values at risk and active management can intervene and help reduce that risk," Hubbard said.
Hubbard and Gianforte agreed that collaborative efforts are working to help manage the forests.