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MT Forest Plan Nominated for Restoration Cash and Jobs

May 24, 2010

MISSOULA, Mont. - A plan to bring $90 million to Montana's "Southwestern Crown of the Continent" region has made the finals list. A proposal detailing restoration work in the state's west-central national forests has just been nominated by the Regional Forester for funding.

Scott Brennan, forest program director for The Wilderness Society, is co-chair of the Southwestern Crown Collaborative. The group includes business leaders, land managers and others who wrote the proposal. He says jobs are a top priority, and estimates that at least 170 positions could be created through wildlife habitat improvement and reduction of fire risks near where people live.

"Thinning of forests near communities in the Blackfoot, the Clearwater and the Swan would put people to work, and it would provide timber for the mills."

The "to do" list is long if the Montana project is approved, Brennan explains. It includes trail improvements, mining reclamation and improved bridges and culverts to benefit fish, as well as recreational uses.

"We'd see close to 80,000 acres of weeds treated, and there will be some decommissioning of roads that are no longer needed and are causing water pollution problems."

Brennan says he expects parts of the plan could be controversial, but he hopes that working with local residents early and completing environmental assessments will avert opposition.

Ten forest health improvement plans across the country will be selected for special funding. Both the Southwestern Crown plan and a proposal for the Clearwater Basin in Idaho were nominated by the Regional Forester.

Details about the proposal are available at www.swcrown.com">.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT