The mission of the Forest Management Bureau is: "To sustainably manage Montana's forested trust lands to maximize long-term revenue while promoting healthy and diverse forests" on over 780,000 acres. Revenue from forested trust lands is mainly derived from the sale of forest products. The bureau also provides program direction and support to the area land offices. Several resource management sections provide technical expertise. Support and program direction are offered in several different ways: developing resource management standards, conducting site-specific reviews, and formulating recommendations as members of interdisciplinary teams that develop land management proposals.
The area land offices have primary responsibility for on-the-ground management activities. With assistance from the Forest Management Bureau, they conduct environmental reviews of proposed management activities, prepare contracts for those activities, and complete the necessary field work.
The State Forest Land Management Plan (SFLMP), approved by the State Land Board in June 1996 and associated rules (2003), and the Montana DNRC Habitat Conservation Plan (2011) guide the management of the forested trust lands. This guidance is provided in the form of general management philosophy and specific resource management standards. The strategic guidance provided by the SFLMP is summarized in this excerpt:
Our premise is that the best way to produce long-term income for the trust is to manage intensively for healthy and biologically diverse forests. Our understanding is that a diverse forest is a stable forest that will produce the most reliable and highest long-term revenue stream. Healthy and biologically diverse forests would provide for sustained income from both timber and a variety of other uses. They would also help maintain stable trust income in the face of uncertainty regarding future resource values. In the foreseeable future timber management will continue to be our primary source of revenue and primary tool for achieving biodiversity objectives.
Forest Product Sales
The forest product sales program incorporates all activities and expenditures required to grow, harvest, and sell forest products from state trust lands efficiently. All timber sales and permits are developed, analyzed, and reviewed in the field by foresters and resource specialists to ensure that sales comply with all applicable laws, policies, and management direction. Activities within this program include field layout of timber sales; development of sale prescriptions; MEPA documentation; preparation of sale contracts, prospectuses, and notices; both field and office administration of timber sales; and sale billing and accounting. These responsibilities are shared among field foresters, area staff, and bureau staff.
The Current annual sustained yield from forested trust lands is 57.6 million board feet as determined by the Habitat Conservation Plan EIS. In FY 2013, 56.3 million board feet (MBF) was sold through timber sales and permits. This sold volume has an estimated stumpage value of $10,655,704 and an additional $1,272,574 in Forest Improvement Fees.
During FY 2013, a total of 70.3 million board feet of timber was harvested from state trust lands, generating $8,878,990 in stumpage revenue. The total harvest volume includes timber sale and permit volume.
The forest improvement program uses fees from harvested timber to improve the health, productivity, and value of trust forested trust lands. Uses of these fees authorized by statute include disposal of logging slash, reforestation, acquiring access and maintaining roads necessary for timber harvest, other treatments necessary to improve the condition and income potential of state forests, and compliance with other legal requirements associated with timber harvest. Specific activities include piling of logging slash, prescribed burning, site preparation, seed collection, seedling production, tree planting, thinning, genetic tree improvement, erosion control, and culvert replacement. In FY 2013, the department collected $1,625,748 in Forest Improvement Fees.
The Forest Inventory Program is responsible for collection and analysis of forest resource inventory data on 780,000 acres of state trust lands. Stand-level resource data and the development and maintenance of a geographic information system (GIS) are used to support planning for forest management activities, environmental analyses, and other activities.
The Resource Management Section (RMS) provided technical assistance to field staff in the disciplines of hydrology, soils, geology, fisheries, wildlife, sensitive plants, road engineering, and riparian grazing. Technical assistance provided by the section staff includes field reviews, project analysis, Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) document preparation, recommendation and design of mitigation measures and other contract provision, and timber sale document review. The RMS also reviews, evaluates, and monitors activities on forested trust lands to ensure compliance with applicable laws, rules, and policies and maintains appropriate levels of resource protection.