Tester Secures $19.3 Million for Wildfire Mitigation in Kootenai National Forest
Funding comes from Senator’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) today announced he secured $19.3 million from his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) for wildfire mitigation on 7,200 acres in and around the Kootenai National Forest during Fiscal Years 2022-2024, including forest thinning, prescribed burns, and planting on U.S. Forest Service (USFS) land and state lands where there are agreements in place between the state and county.
Tester negotiated the IIJA and helped pass it into law last year, and he was the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to support the bipartisan legislation.
“Wildfires pose a serious risk to Montana’s forests and the rural communities that surround them, and we’ve got to do everything we can to combat and mitigate wildfire damage across the state—particularly as our fire seasons have grown longer and more dangerous,” said Tester. “That’s why I worked to ensure the bipartisan infrastructure law gives the Forest Service the tools they need to protect our land and communities, and why I’ll hold them accountable to use it effectively as quickly as possible. Our communities whose homes and drinking water are at risk can’t afford to wait.”
Senator Tester has worked tirelessly over the years to secure wildfire prevention funding for Montana. In 2017, Tester announced $576 million in funding for Montana wildfire relief and forest management through the bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Relief Funding Act. Additionally, Tester pushed Chief Randy Moore in November to address high fuel and risk areas using new resources and authorities to protect communities by empowering frontline staff in the agency.
The Kootenai Project will work to treat hazardous fuels across 150,000 acres deemed “high risk” surrounding Libby, Troy, Eureka, Stryker, Fortine, and Trego. The initial treatments are expected to be completed between 2029 and 2032, with 900 acres being treated by the end of FY22. In addition to protecting Lincoln County from the threat of wildfires, this project works alongside a countywide effort to increase infrastructure capacity for timber, which would expand employment opportunities for residents. The Kootenai Project would also contribute to ongoing conservation efforts in the area, improving wildlife habitat, forest health, and water quality.