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DNRC Headquarters
1539 Eleventh Ave. Helena, MT 59601
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DNRC adopts new sustainable yield calculation for forested trust lands

HELENA, Mont. – Following approval from the State Land Board today, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) will manage the state’s 750,000 acres of forested trust lands using an updated Sustainable Yield Calculation for annual timber harvest volume, department officials said.   

The new Sustainable Yield Calculation of 60 million board-feet (MMBF) per year will replace the current figure of 56.9 MMBF, which the Department has used since 2015. The new target for timber harvests will be fully implemented in July of 2022.

DNRC Director John Tubbs said that while modeling produced an overall Sustainable Yield figure of 68.3 MMBF, some of the inventory consists of lower-value Ponderosa pine located long distances from existing markets. Taking this into consideration, forest managers recommended an annual target of 60 MMBF, classifying the additional 8.3 MMBF as “opportunity volume,” some or all of which could be harvested if markets and other variables improve in the future.

“We think this additional 8.3 MMBF represents a commitment that could help incentivize the development or enhancement of markets in areas of the state where they are currently lacking,” Tubbs said.  

Tubbs said the increase from 56.9 to 60 MMBF is good news for the Montana wood products industry and beneficiaries of State Trusts, which include K-12 public schools.

“Trust Lands have a longstanding record of excellence in forest management. Forested trust lands account for less than five percent of all timberland in Montana but annually contribute 15 to 20 percent of the statewide harvest volume. We produce a steady, dependable and sustainable volume of timber for the wood products industry, with the revenue benefitting public schools.” 

State law requires DNRC to calculate an annual Sustained Yield for forested trust lands every 10 years in order to incorporate changes in forest conditions, land base, management objectives and new laws and regulations. The analysis is performed by an independent third party.

The 2015 calculation coincided with DNRC’s acquisition of 67,000 acres of forested lands in the upper Blackfoot River drainage. Last year, the department took ownership of 13,000 acres of highly productive forest lands within the boundaries of the Stillwater State Forest that were formerly owned by private industry.

In preparing for the new calculation, forest managers selected a different set of modeling variables for growth rates that more closely resembled on-the-ground conditions in Montana forests. Managers also included acreage from the central and eastern areas of the state that were not included in the 2015 calculation.