A regional federal advisory committee that reviews and recommends projects for funding to the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Supervisor is accepting proposals for the first time in about two years.

The Forest Service announced last week that the Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) for Southwest Montana has approximately $460,000 to award to projects that seek to improve Forest Service lands.

Projects requirements are specific. They must focus on roads and trails, infrastructure maintenance, soil and forest ecosystem health, watershed restoration, maintenance and improvement of wildlife and fish habitat, control of noxious weeds, or re-establishment of native species, according to a news release.

At least half of the $430,000 will be dedicated to projects that seek to restore streams and watersheds or to maintain, decommission or remove roads.

Carellen Smith-Nix of Boulder was appointed in October to her second four-term term on the Southwest Montana RAC. One of two RACs serving the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, its 15 members hail from Jefferson, Beaverhead, Madison, Silver Bow and Granite counties and represent a variety of areas including agriculture, timber, recreation, business and environmental groups, she said by email.

“The RAC carries out the requirements of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000, as amended by Public Law 115-334,” she wrote. “Basically we spend federal dollars on needed projects to keep our public lands healthy and accessible for the public.”

The Act was established to assist counties with significant tracts of federally owned, tax-exempt land following reductions in timber harvesting.

During her first term, from 2014 to 2018, Smith-Nix said that the committee approved projects that included weed management, bridge and trail maintenance, cabin restorations and timber sales following damage caused by fire or beetle kills.

“Unfortunately in 2017 the government sequestration of all funds left the RAC with nothing to work with in 2018, and we were all furloughed until recently,” she wrote. “Congress has now got a budget in place and we can move forward with getting things accomplished in the future.”

Smith-Nix suggested that the RAC funding might be a good opportunity for the Boulder Transition Advisory Committee, the Boulder Community Development Fund Board, the Jefferson Local Development Corporation or any other group with a project in mind that would benefit recreation, forest health, water quality, fish or wildlife habitat restoration or control of noxious weeds in Jefferson County.

According to the Forest Service news release, projects that take place on private land can be proposed “but must show a direct benefit to National Forest System lands.”

Funding applications and instructions are available online. Applications are due by Jan. 6, 2020.

For more information contact Jeanne Dawson at 406-683-3987 or jeanne.dawson@usda.gov.

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