Montana law requires landowners to provide adequate fire protection for their land 76-13-212, MCA and 76-13-115 (6), MCA. Most landowners simply do not have the capability or financial resources necessary to accomplish this. The Department of Natural Resources & Conservation (DNRC) has been authorized to provide this service to private and public landowners at a minimum charge 76-13-105, MCA. This is not a tax but a fee for wildland fire protection benefits actually received 76-13-208, MCA. A landowner paying wildland fire protection fees can receive no other charges as a result of a fire originating on his or her land with the exception of those resulting from negligence on the part of the landowner or his agent or in the event of a violation of 50-63-103, MCA, 76-13-201(3), MCA.

Fire Protection Programs
In order to affect this service, the Department has several programs for providing various levels of protection for owners of wildland. For forest land located in the Wildland Fire Protection Districts, payment of the wildland fire protection fee is mandatory. Other areas have been designated as Wildland Affidavit Protection Units. In these areas, a landowner can voluntarily sign an affidavit requesting the Department to protect their land from fire. Certain non-forest lands within an affidavit unit can be protected provided the Department and landowner sign an agreement for protection.

Assessment and Fee Payment
Land ownership information for fire assessments is provided by the Department of Revenue (DOR) and is updated each year. The DNRC prepares a listing that includes the fees for all landowners receiving protection and forwards this to the DOR’s county contact person. DOR and/or County personnel post these fees to the county tax statement, and the county collects the fees for services rendered in the previous calendar year.

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