MTPR

Bill Avey

In 1949, 13 smokejumpers died in Mann Gulch after being overtaken by fire.
Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

Seventy years ago today, an 18-man smokejumper crew jumped out of a plane into the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness northeast of Helena. Within hours of the jump the crew was overrun by the fire they were sent to stop, and most of the men died.

MTPR's Corin Cates-Carney looks back at the Mann Gulch tragedy, which lead the U.S. Forest Service — for the first time — to approach wildfire as a science.

The Helena - Lewis and Clark National Forest released its new draft forest plan last week. It's a significant milestone. Montanans can now weigh-in on the master plan that will guide the forest's land use decisions for the next 15 years.

The Helena - Lewis and Clark is currently governed by a pair of 32-year-old forest plans.

The Park Creek Fire perimeter overlaid on top of the Stonewall Vegetation project map.
Inciweb

The U.S. Forest Service says additional analysis is needed for a forestry project near Lincoln in the aftermath of last summer’s wildfires.

When the Park Creek and Arrastra wildfires merged into one big fire last August, it burned more than half of the Stonewall Vegetation Project-area northwest of Lincoln.

The Park Creek Fire north of Lincoln, summer 2017.
Inciweb

In a visit to the Lolo Peak Fire command post last week, a delegation of cabinet secretaries and Montana’s Republican representatives in Congress made it clear who they think is to blame for the devastating wildfires here in recent years.

"We’re tied up in knots through extensive and ridiculous permitting processes, and frivolous lawsuits from environmental extremists," says Congressman Greg Gianforte.

We’re going to hear from one of the people Gianforte calls an extremist in a moment. He’s the man behind the lawsuit Gianforte is complaining about here:

Cabin Gulch Fire 07-22-15
Courtesy Inciweb

From Front Street in Townsend, it’s hard to tell there’s a fire, except for the occasional fire engine and the unusual traffic around the Forest Service Office. But drive a few miles out of town on highway 12, and you soon find a landscape dominated by blackened and smoldering trees. No flames are visible from the highway, but Forest Service public information officer Marvin Carpenter says only a fraction of the fire has been put out.

Sen. Daines at Chessman Reservoir with federal, state and local forest officials.
Steve Jess

Steve Jess is on the road, a few miles south of Helena, trailing a convoy carrying Senator Steve Daines and an assortment of local officials. They travel down about 20 miles of dirt road and the occasional cattle guard to a site just yards from the Chessman reservoir, where many of the surrounding hills bear the corpses of lodgepole pines killed by the mountain pine beetle.