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Members sought for local advisory committee


Any Montana resident interested in allocating funds to help manage and improve federal forest lands is encouraged to apply for a volunteer position on the county Resource Advisory Committee, also known as RAC. New members are being recruited to fill vacancies on the current 15-member committee serving both the Lolo National Forest, Plains Ranger District and the Kootenai National Forest, Cabinet Ranger District.

Cabinet District Ranger John Gubel is “looking for community members from diverse backgrounds to serve a four-year term” filling the niche categories of organized labor, environmental groups, recreation and history interests and elected or school officials or tribes or other members of the public at large.

“This is a great opportunity for someone to help recommend how SRS (Secure Rural Schools) funds should be spent on important projects on National Forest lands in the county,” Gubel expressed.

Appropriated SRS funds must be used to perform maintenance improvements on existing infrastructure, enhance forest ecosystems through stewardship practices and improve forests, land, watersheds, fisheries and wildlife health.

Throughout the process RAC members review, rank and make recommendations on submitted proposed conservation projects and recreation fee proposals. These proposed projects, fitting SRS Act funding criteria, can occur on private or public lands, but must benefit National Forest lands.

Although many approved projects are on-the-ground related, last year the Sanders County RAC allocated wages for eight 15 to 18-year-old locals serving the Youth Conservation Corps crew, according to the Forest Service. Throughout the summer the crew made improvements to trails, performed fish surveys, participated in weed removal, improved bridges and provided fuels reduction preparation.

The Sanders County RAC originated by Congress in 2001 through the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. Most local projects implemented by RAC funding approval include stream restoration, campground, trail, trailhead and forest health improvements, noxious weed control, lookout building maintenance and road improvements, decommissioning activities and maintenance treatments, according to the Forest Service.

Members can expect to participate in one to three meetings each year and attendance can by in person, by telephone or be utilizing other electronic means. Membership is voluntary, although travel expenses may be reimbursed.

Both the Cabinet and Plains Ranger Districts have applications for those interested in applying. More information can be obtained by contacting Gubel at (406) 827-0714 or Plains District Ranger Erin Carey at (406) 826-4308 or by visiting online.


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