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Area of Flathead Reservation within Wildlife Urban Interface. Multi-agencies including NRCS and the CSKT are working together to manage forests along Flathead Lake. Lake County, MT.

Libby Surround Stewardship Project

Libby Surround Stewardship is a Joint Chiefs' Landscape Restoration Partnership project that will treat hazardous fuels on 4,605 acres of land surrounding the town of Libby in Lincoln County, Montana.

Project Description

Project duration: 2022-2024
Project area: Area around Libby in Lincoln County, Montana

Map of Libby Surround Stewardship project area in Montana

The Libby Surround Stewardship Project will treat hazardous fuels on 4,605 acres of land surrounding Libby, Montana. This project is part of an ongoing cross-boundary effort to connect past, present, and future activities in a large project area of 263,026 acres. Over time and in part due to fire suppression, fuels have increased creating conditions that promote uncharacteristically severe wildfires within these mixed conifer forests. As a result, there is a need to treat lands adjacent to approximately 70,000 acres of past and future treatments, expanding the continuity of fuel treatments across ownerships and the landscape. This project is designed to reduce and mitigate wildfire threats to communities and landowners. These critical 4,605 acres of treatment are identified as a priority by the Montana Forest Action Plan (MFAP) and the Lincoln County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) within the Libby Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), Lincoln County, the Kootenai National Forest (KNF), and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) further supports these areas to reduce hazardous fuels in the Lincoln County WUI. This work aligns with Federal and State Agencies' objectives and priorities along with the Lincoln County CWPP and the NRCS Local Working Group which acknowledge the need to improve forest resiliency in an effort to reduce the potential of wildfire impacts to public health and safety. This cross-boundary project area includes forest health hazards and values at risk from wildfire such as the municipal watershed with a newly constructed $11.5 million-dollar replacement dam and reservoir in the Flower Creek drainage, that supplies domestic water to 1,800 households. The project area also includes multiple operating units (OU) of the Libby Asbestos Superfund Site, most importantly OU3, which is 9,200 acres and includes the now defunct vermiculite mine and surrounding forested area contaminated with asbestos. The EPA has defined a human health risk within OU3 for firefighters, loggers, and rockhounders. Activities in this Joint Chiefs' proposal include pre-commercial thinning and fuels reduction on 3,105 acres of federal land on the KNF and 1500 acres of forest stand improvement and fuels reduction on non-industrial private forest lands (NIPF) through the NRCS' EQIP program. Implementation of this project will serve to strengthen community involvement and education, provide jobs, and help reduce wildfire threats to the local community.

Project Partners

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Forest Service as well as other Federal, state, county, and local entities:

  • Lincoln County
  • Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC)
  • American Forest Foundation (AFF)
  • Kootenai Forests to Rivers Initiative (KFRI)
  • Stimson Lumber Company
  • Lincoln County Firesafe Council
  • Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition (KFSC)

Applicable Conservation Practices

  • 383 Fuel Break
  • 384 Woody Residue Treatment
  • 666 Forest Stand Improvement

Detailed descriptions of these conservation practices can be found in the Field Office Technical Guide, Section 4 - Practice Standards and Supporting Documents.

When to Apply

Program applications are accepted on a continual basis. However, NRCS establishes application ranking dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications. Applications received after the ranking date will be automatically deferred to the next funding period. See Montana Programs and Application Dates.

Local Ranking Questions

NRCS uses these questions to evaluate eligible applications for this project and to prioritize applications for potential funding.

  1. Does the EQIP contract leverage the management of natural resources across land ownership (public-private) boundaries?
    • EQIP project is located in an area that is adjacent to high priority projects on public land as identified in the selected Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Project proposal.
    • EQIP project is located in an area that is within the same 12-digit hydrologic unit as high priority projects on public land as identified in the selected Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Project proposal.
  2. Is the project adjacent or within 1000 feet of a high value resource or asset such as a structure or critical infrastructure?
    • Multiple high value resources or assets are adjacent or within 1000 feet of the project location.
    • A single high value resource or asset is adjacent or within 1000 feet of the project location.
  3. Does the project include a Fuel Break adjacent to a home, primary line of defense, or egress route?
    • Yes
    • No
  4. Does the project show a flame length potential of greater than 4 feet as identified in the Montana Wildfire Risk Assessment?
    • The project area shows a flame length potential greater than 12 feet.
    • The project area shows a flame length potential between 4 to 12 feet.
    • The project area shows a flame length potential less than 4 feet.

Additional Montana Information

NRCS contributions to Joint Chiefs' Landscape Restoration Partnership projects in Montana are managed through the Montana Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Ready to get started?

Contact your local service center to start your application.

Find Your Local Service Center

USDA Service Centers are locations where you can connect with Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or Rural Development employees for your business needs. Enter your state and county below to find your local service center and agency offices. If this locator does not work in your browser, please visit

How to Get Assistance

Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?

Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.

how to get started

To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.

NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.

We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:

  • To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
  • To meet other eligibility certifications.

Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.

Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.

As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:

  • An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
  • A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
  • A farm number.

If you don’t have a farm number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm number if you’re interested in financial assistance.

NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants. View Application Ranking Dates by State.

If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.

Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.