The first in a series of nine public meetings on a re-write of the forest plan for the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest happens tonight in Lincoln. Forest plans provide land managers with important long-term guidance, goals and standards. Think of them as legally-mandated land and resource mission statements for our national forests.
It’s been over 30 years since the forest plans governing both the Helena National Forest and the Lewis and Clark National Forest were last updated. A lot’s changed since then. For one, those two once-individual forests have since merged into one.
"It’s been about a year since we did that," says Kathy Bushnell, spokewoman for Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. "Each forest had their separate management plan. What we’re doing in the process is consolidating into one forest management plan for the consolidated forest."
Bushnell points out the recently merged three-million-acre national forest is a big, diverse landscape.
"We have some ranger districts that are very much wilderness and backcountry, whereas some are known for their motorized use and everything in between," Bushnell says.
The forest plan process to guide how all that land is managed has been about two years in the making. Forest officials held meetings in nine communities across the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. They combined that public input with scientific analysis from the Forest Service and released what’s called a ‘proposed action’ early last month.
"So what we’re doing now is we’re going back out to those communities to answer any questions that they have on that proposed action," says Bushnell.
Bushnell says that feedback will be used to help design draft plan alternatives, which could be released later this year. Tonight’s public meeting is being held at the Lincoln Community Center until 7:00 pm.
Three other meetings will be held over the next three days in Helena, Townsend and White Sulphur Springs, respectively. Other workshops will be held through early next month. A complete list of dates and locations is available on this page.