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Missoulian: International Forest Managers Heading to Lubrecht to Learn about Montana's Management Policies
Forest managers from around the world are coming to Lubrecht Experimental Forest this week to learn how Montana has kept its timber industry functioning with a minimal amount of regulation.
"Montana is very unique even from other (U.S.) states," said Angela Mallon, who supervises private forestry programs at the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation in Missoula. "Our regulatory structure is more lenient than neighboring states, but we still have forest cover, sustained populations of large predators and wildlife and sustained levels of forest harvesting. For countries that can't implement regulations or don't have them, they're looking for ways our model can be applied."
Many developing nations put forest management in the exclusive control of the central government. But that's often resulted in making legal forestry non-competitive with other land uses - or left forests vulnerable to illegal harvesting. Those countries also have little private forest ownership, so local communities have minimal investment in caring for those lands.
Montana has only two major forest management regulations, Mallon said. They cover streamside management and how much slash can be left on a logging site. That's considerably less than states like Oregon or Idaho, which mandate what kinds of trees must be replanted, what kinds of forest cover that should be maintained and other restrictions.
Instead, Montana has an expansive set of voluntary "best management practices" that guide logging activity on private and state lands. Mallon said those came about in the late 1980s.
"We realized if we don't act well, if we don't do a good job managing forests voluntarily, we have a credible threat of being regulated like neighboring states are," Mallon said. "Everyone came together and said is there another way to achieve the same goals without having regulations."
Participants from Indonesia, China, Peru, Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Mexico will come to the Lubrecht Experimental Forest northeast of Missoula for the five-day workshop. They'll be joined by Montana State Forester Bob Harrington, Forest Service Region 1 Forester Leslie Weldon, and leaders of the Blackfoot Challenge, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and local lumber mills.
Harrington said Montana's simplified forest practices could appeal to developing nations that face complex timber management issues.
"Regulation requires a lot of staff and budget," Harrington said. "Places like Indonesia or the Congo don't have the resources or a culture that accepts it."
In addition to seeing how a timber sale would be handled at Lubrecht, participants will also discuss how Montana has developed niche timber markets, state land trusts that support schools and stewardship contracting projects.
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials will explain how wildlife management builds community support.
The Rights and Resources Initiative group underwrote much of the conference, Mallon said. The international group has brought together land managers from around the world to work on issues like indigenous people's rights, community land management and decentralized forestry practices.
"Forestry is a small world," Mallon said. "At international conferences, the same names kept running into each other. Montana has a neat example of decentralized management, so we thought we should bring folks out here."
Posted By Adam Houston at 11:09am on July 25, 2011
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