HELENA — The Helena National Forest recently received $26,000 from the American Forest Foundation to plant trees on more than 500 acres in the Big Belt Mountains and near Stemple Pass.
Depending on weather conditions, the tree planting effort is scheduled to begin Monday.
Tree planting will occur primarily in the Big Belt Mountains in areas that were burned by the Maud-low-Toston and Cave Gulch fires during the 2000 fire season. Both were high-intensity fires that burned about 40,000 acres each and caused nearly complete tree mortality. Various other areas near Stemple Pass have been identified for tree planting as well.
“The Helena Forest, through contract crews, plans to plant nearly 170,000 Douglas fir and lodgepole pine seedlings,” public affairs officer Kathy Bushnell said. “The grant money received from the American Forest Foundation will be added to the Helena Forest’s allocated funding to enable the planting program to expand its efforts for 2010 to areas that are generally harsh sites where natural regeneration has been unsuccessful.”
Planting trees in these areas will provide several resources and social benefits, she said, including watershed restoration, assurance that tree stocking is within the suitable timber base, establishment of cover for wildlife habitat and aesthetic enhancements for forest visitors.
Crews will begin in the Sulphur Bar and Blacktail areas off of the Deep Creek Highway. However, these areas will remain gated and closed to the public until they are officially opened later this year.
“Forest managers and contract crews can access areas that are closed to the public for administrative purposes,” Bushnell said. “Tree planting falls under administrative use, so although crews will be working behind the gated areas during this time, these sites are still officially closed to the public.”
For more information about the American Forest Foundation grant or Helena National Forest tree planting efforts, contact forest silviculturist Amanda Milburn at 449-5201.