Sanders County Ledger - Your Best Source For Sanders County News

Program promotes forest health


Shana Neesvig

STANDING IN GOOD HEALTH – The Harlow Bison Ranch prides itself on creating and maintaining healthy land to attain quality soil, forest and bison habitat. The Harlows were the first private forest owners to join the Montana Tree Farm System in 1945 and have utilized MTFS influences to obtain a healthy forest environment for their needs. The Montana Tree Farm program launched in June 1944.

"Often, the best resource is simply a neighbor and fellow landowner sharing their experience and knowledge!" emphasizes Montana Tree Farm System (MTFS). Last Thursday, over 65 people gathered at Harlow Bison Ranch in Thompson Falls to join MTFS in piloting their Montana Tree Farm Peer Network.

MTFS Chairperson Holly McKenzie stated that "rather than sending in a forester, people are more comfortable with a neighbor" when being advised about forest land management. The goal of the gathering was aimed exactly at that by providing a full BBQ, inclusive of bison burgers, and ending with a tour of the ranch observing the healthy forest created through MTFS collaboration beginning in 1945. New and longtime residents were brought together to discuss what forest health means.

Natural Resources Conservation Service retiree Don Feist took center stage to ask what forest health meant to each individual. The discussion revealed that individuals have their own ideas about managing water, weeds, wildlife, trees, fire resistance and finances. Even so, one idea shared aloud by Plains resident Charlie McCrea went undisputed. Forest health is "when it is still alive," McCrea shared.

McKenzie and Feist agreed that people take pride in owning a piece of Montana forest land. "It is a privilege to own Montana forest land," said McKenzie. "But it comes with responsibility." Feist shared his experience in private forest management. "It took me quite a few years to learn what needed to be done. It is a learning process."

This is where the MTFS can assist, according to MTFS Peer Network Coordinator Jane Mandala. "Tree Farm is a community of forest landowners, and everyone is managing in their own way; whether for wildlife, restoration, income or all of these." Landowners are encouraged to develop their own management plan and MTFS will help them achieve those goals, all while increasing their property value.

Shana Neesvig

MISTLETOE FOE – Melinda Anakalea provides demonstrations on the enemies of healthy forest and rangelands. She holds a sample of parasitic mistletoe (above) in addition to showing invasive ventenata and cheatgrass, and fungal induced burl. Anakalea, along with her husband, Adam, manages Thompson Falls' 2,000 acre Harlow Bison Ranch that has been in her family since it was established in 1919.

With an increase in people relocating to the area, MTFS representatives emphasized the importance of sharing knowledge about how proper Montana land management is unique compared to elsewhere. The lack of water, the species of trees that flourish here, the threat of fire, the remoteness and many other factors make forest land management challenging in Big Sky Country. "In all, how we manage our land affects our neighbors as well," McKenzie said, noting the importance of people's willingness to educate themselves and work collectively to obtain healthy forest lands. "It really benefits everyone."

MTFS is a free and an informal program. They state the only requirements are that you own 10 or more acres, you maintain a current forest stewardship or management plan adhering to the Tree Farm Standards of Sustainability for Forest Certification, you participate in the recertification process at least once every five years and if selected, represent Montana's Tree Farm program in the national third-party assessment process.

In return, MTFS will provide recognition that your tree farm is a certified source of sustainable wood fiber, provide a visit from a professional forester to your tree farm once every five years, give you eligibility for grants or other financial assistance opportunities and invite you to seminars, field days and workshops to help you achieve your land management goals.

For more information on MTFS, call Mandala at (406) 274-2030 or email [email protected]


Reader Comments(0)


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2023