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NRCS Helps Preserve Forestland with Crown of the Continent Initiative

It’s a rare partnership:  a private landowner, a private company and the government.  But in Kalispell, Mont., it’s a relationship that is working. 

“It was a learning curve, but it went better than we expected,” said Lois Rose, a private landowner who walked into the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Kalispell Field Office a little over a year ago looking for help. 

Adjacent to Glacier National Park, Lois’s 506-acre property was in need.  She inherited land from her in-laws, Clarence and Isabel Rose, in 1999.  It had been left to over grow for years. “Grandma Rose didn’t want to cut a tree, ever,” said Karla Levengood, Lois’s daughter and Isabel’s granddaughter.  “It looked like Lincoln Logs.”

With dead lodgepole pine trees throughout, Lois and Levengood knew a fire would be disastrous.  “The lodgepole was at the end of its days,” said Levengood.  “And we’ve had fires on all sides of us.  We were afraid that lodgepole was going to burn next, so we wanted to get it cleaned up before that happened.”

Lois asked one of her neighbors, who is a logger, to help her clean up the ranch.  In turn, he “introduced” her to EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program)—a voluntary NRCS program that provides technical and financial assistance to plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resources concerns on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland. 

This EQIP project is a part of America's Great Outdoors Initiative, an effort to achieve lasting conservation of the outdoor spaces that power the nation's economy, shape culture, and build outdoor traditions.  This is part of the one of five America’s Great Outdoors demonstration projects across the country, called The Crown of the Continent, an initiative that coordinates and advances conservation efforts in areas where native plants and animals and the ecosystems that support them remain largely intact. 

Once Lois learned about EQIP, she began working with Angel Rosario, NRCS’s district conservationist in the Kalispell Field Office.  After speaking with Lois, Rosario and his staff inventoried the property and determined that the program could help pay for non-commercial tree thinning and tree planting.

Citing its size and proximity to the national park, Rosario said this was a “worthwhile” project to undertake and fit into the goals of the Crown of the Continent initiative.  “By thinning and planting trees, we are better managing the land—preserving open space and healthy forest for wildlife.”

When Lois and Rosario got the ball rolling, she informed Rosario that she had already worked with F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company, the oldest family-owned lumber company in Montana, on other projects.

Mark Boardman, certified forester with Stoltze, is the forester in charge of Lois’s project. He was attending a Best Management Practices compliance audit on Lois’s property when he noticed the last logger left some pretty valuable material lying around.  “I contacted Lois to let her know,” he said.  Lois was very interested, so they took it a step further.  “She asked me to plant some trees.”

Soon after, Boardman and Rosario were working with each other directly. 

Boardman researched and wrote a certified tree farm management plan, making the property part of the American Tree Farm System, meeting nine standards of sustainability and managing for water, wildlife, timber and recreation. Rosario used parts of Boardman’s research for the EQIP conservation plan.

NRCS provided the funding.  Stoltze hired contractors. 

The contractors logged the old lodgepole pine trees and thinned the new regeneration.  Stoltze also contracted with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) to grow seedlings for species diversity and for areas that do not naturally regenerate.

“She wanted to do something about the land, but she needed funding and help from professionals to tell what she needed and how to go about it,” said Rosario.  “That’s where NRCS and Stoltze stepped in. I’ve learned that for these types of partnerships, you have to be creative and open to different avenues to do the business we do,” said Rosario.

Although the project is ongoing, Boardman says for his first time working with NRCS, it’s been a smooth road.  He just had to learn the “ins and outs.”

“I knew about EQIP, but I didn’t know details,” he said.  “And honestly, I shied away from it. This forced me to do it, and that’s good.

EQIP is beneficial because we can do great things on the ground for the private landowner.  It’s hard getting extra money to pay for planting, thinning, and maybe some weed control on the land.”

Lois and Levengood, are just happy to see it all coming together.  “We got with the right people,” said Lois.  “Maybe this is a prelude to something down the road for other people.”

And that’s exactly what Rosario is looking forward to doing.

“We should always be open to new opportunities and new challenges because it’s for the good of the land at the end,” said Rosario.  “And if we can get it done, everybody is a winner.”

Shows the diversity of the forest on Lois Rose’s property with some regeneration in the foreground of lodgepole pine and older lodgepole pine forest in the background.  The mountains in the background are a part of Glacier National Park.

Shows the diversity of the forest on Lois Rose’s property with some regeneration in the foreground of lodgepole pine and older lodgepole pine forest in the background. The mountains in the background are a part of Glacier National Park. Lois Rose worked with NRCS to implement a forest management plan to add tree diversity to her property. Adjacent to Glacier National Park, Rose recognized her land needed some attention and teamed with NRCS through the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to make her forest land healthier.

 

The north fork of the Flathead River, which is designated as a wild and scenic river, runs between Lois Rose’s property and Glacier National Park.

The north fork of the Flathead River, a designated wild and scenic river, runs between Lois Rose’s property and Glacier National Park. Her forest management work will improve tree diversity, wildlife habitat, and water quality.