DNRC, North Fork Landowners Reduce Fire Hazard

By Beacon Staff

A deal between the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the North Fork Landowners Association will keep the North Fork buzzing with chainsaws this spring in an effort to reduce flammable fuels throughout the area.

According to forester Bill Swope, nearly two-thirds of the area along the North Fork Road, between Camas Creek and the Canadian border, have been scorched by wildfire since 1988. Now much of that is regrowing and he said efforts must be made to thin underbrush, which will be the focus of a $100,000 grant from DNRC.

“The intent of all of this is to reduce the risk of losing your home in a wildfire,” he said.

Swope, who works with the Flathead Economic Policy Center, said as more people move up the North Fork, wildfires will become more of a problem. According to Swope, six area homes were lost to wildfires in 2003.

The grant is being administered by the Policy Center, which works with various conservation groups throughout the area. Swope said landowners can apply for grant money to help pay for a fuels reduction project on their own land. Usually the grant covers 75 percent of costs and the landowner must provide the rest.

Policy Center Executive Director Carol Daly said she hopes to distribute enough money to cover about 100 acres. She said even though the land that is being worked on is privately owned, there are benefits for the entire area, which is dispersed with publicly owned land.

“We want to protect both the humans and the landscape,” she said.

Swope said he hopes work can begin sometime during the spring, whenever it comes.

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