Montana Public Radio

John Tubbs

A citizen committee meeting Wednesday and Thursday put the finishing touches on a once-in-a-decade plan that will shape forest management in Montana.

Decades of aggressively putting out wildfires led to unhealthy, overgrown forests at particularly high risk for burns and disease outbreaks. At the same time, a patchwork of land ownership makes addressing management problems hard to do. That’s where the Montana Forest Action Plan comes in.

Fire hose.
Inciweb

Pre-evacuation notices were lifted Tuesday for about 20 homes threatened by the Lump Gulch Fire burning south of Helena in Jefferson County. Strong winds caused the fire to grow quickly this weekend.

John Tubbs, Director of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, says he doesn't know how those homes were spared.

State Sen. and gubernatorial candidate Albert Olszewski.
Montana Legislature

Opponents of a major Indian water rights settlement in Montana are calling on U.S. Sen. Steve Daines to withdraw it from Congress. But attorneys say some of the claims made by the conservative group from the Flathead Valley are false. 

Landlocked public land in southeastern Montana.
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and onX; http://www.trcp.org/unlocking-public-lands/

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and onX, a Montana-based land data company, analyzed land ownership patterns for a report detailing the extent of state-owned parcels that lack public access.

Montana, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming each have more than 1 million acres (0.4 million hectares) of state lands surrounded by private property, according to the report. Nevada has the least amount with less than 1,000 acres (405 hectares) landlocked.

July Max/Min Temps and Precipitation.
Coleen Haskell/Michael Richmond - National Interagency Fire Center

Average fire conditions are expected throughout most of Montana this summer, according to analysis given to Gov. Steve Bullock during his annual pre-fire-season briefing today. However, fire officials warn that climate change is continuing to lengthen fire seasons throughout the West.

Kate Vandemoer presents on the “People’s Compact,” a proposed alternative to the CSKT Water Compact in Kalispell on Dec. 10, 2018.
Nicky Ouellet / MTPR

Supporters of an alternative proposal to settle water rights claims on and around the Flathead Reservation have released a framework for what they would like to see in federal legislation. Meanwhile, their proposal is drawing condemnation and curiosity across the state.

Montana DNRC helicopter used to fight wildfires.
Corin Cates-Carney / MTPR

Montana’s wildfire season is slowing down and trending well below average in the number of fires, acres burned and cost to the state.

The forecast of the state’s 2018 fire bill is only a sliver of the cost of last year’s historic fire season, according to a report from legislative researchers published Wednesday

the 2017 Rice Ridge Fire near Seeley Lake
Inciweb

The State’s fire fighting savings account started this month with the second lowest balance since it was created a decade ago.

There’s only about $4 million in the fund’s reserves for this fire season. That’s about a fifth of what the state needs to cover an average fire season bill.

An oily sheen on the shoreline of Flathead Lake near Somers, MT, May 2017.
Nicky Ouellet

A group tasked by the legislature to protect water quality in the Flathead Valley is in jeopardy after its funding was cut during Montana’s special legislative session in November and its executive director was terminated in February.

On Wednesday the Flathead Basin Commission will meet in Pablo and reassess its future.

USGS

State budget cuts mean that ranchers, recreation businesses and conservationists who rely on accurate information about water in Montana are facing new challenges.

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