Living in the Forest
Historically, wildfire burned through the lower elevation forests in the Blackfoot watershed at short intervals of 10-40 years. These fires typically burned with low intensity, killing only small trees and consuming fallen branches, litter and duff from the forest floor, minimizing the build-up of forest fuels and favoring fire resistant tree species such as ponderosa pine and western larch.
As human settlement increased and communities grew, federal and state land management agencies were directed to put out or suppress wildfires and have been very successful at doing so for over the last 100 years. Therefore, many forests that were historically maintained by fire are now overgrown. These stands are unhealthy and susceptible to high-severity, stand-replacing fire that can pose a danger to communities and be difficult or impossible for firefighters to control. In addition, much of the forests covering valley bottoms are privately owned, interwoven with homes and other structures that make up the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). Utilizing tools such as tree thinning and prescribed fire in these areas can help restore forests to a more natural state while increasing community and firefighter safety.
In response to the increasing incidence of wildfire and residents’ interest in being better prepared for future fires, the Blackfoot Challenge formed the Forestry Committee in 2008. This committee strategizes on fuel reduction treatments across the watershed in order to reduce wildfire risk and increase forest health and fire safety in communities. Working with private landowners and public agencies, this committee’s cooperative work is helping create more resilient, healthy forests across mixed land ownerships.
The Blackfoot Challenge Forestry Committee supports private forest landowners with grant funding and hands-on knowledge and assistance. We coordinate with state and federal agencies to ensure that forestry projects on private land tie in with similar projects on public land.
The Forestry Committee formed the Greenough/Potomac and North Powell Fuel Mitigation Task Forces, patterned on the successful Seeley Lake Fuel Mitigation Task Force and the Bitterroot RC+D’s Hazardous Fuel Mitigation Program. The Task Forces are composed of representatives from the Blackfoot Challenge, local fire departments, state and federal agencies, and private landowners. The Task Forces work with the Blackfoot Challenge to provide fuel reduction and forest health improvement grants and forestry assistance for landowners in the Blackfoot watershed.
Learn more about how our Prescribed Fire Work Group is working collaboratively to increase and support the use of prescribed fire as a restoration and management tool in the Blackfoot.