$1M grant will help rid noxious weeds from Great Burn

Nov. 23—The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation recently notified the Great Burn Conservation Alliance in Missoula that they were being awarded $1 million to restore native habitat in the Great Burn Ecosystem by 2026.

This donation is from the inaugural America the Beautiful Challenge which is a public-private grant program for locally led ecosystem restoration projects valued at $854,000 with the GBCA match of $240,000. This money will come from state grants, private foundations and local donors and is a terrific windfall for the organization.

"The Great Burn's exceptional wildlife values are currently threatened by the spread of noxious weeds," said Great Burn Conservation Alliance Co-Executive Director Hayley Newman. "Our project will identify and manage infestations in the region's most remote areas to safeguard this important habitat."

The Great Burn Recommended Wilderness is located in the Lolo National Forest on the Montana side, and the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest on the Idaho side. The Great Burn's Lolo trailheads are primarily accessed from Interstate 90, via exits at Superior and St. Regis. The Idaho trailheads can be accessed at numerous points along Highway 12.

This ecosystem is a vast, remote landscape of wild public land that provides a critical wildlife corridor connecting the Crown of the Continent and Selkirk-Cabinet-Yaak ecosystems with central Idaho's wildlands and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

"The Great Burn ecosystem is home to two native mountain goat herds and a legendary elk herd as well as lynx, fisher, wolverine and rare native trout," said Co-Executive Director Skye Borden. "It is also a key landscape for the recolonization of grizzly bears into the Bitterroot Ecosystem Recovery Zone. So, a wide range of species stand to benefit from this project."

The Great Burn Restoration Project will restore native habitat through early detection and rapid response treatment of noxious weeds, combined with targeted outreach and education. The group plans to restore 3,300 acres of backcountry habitat by 2026 with the aid of this much needed grant.

The majority of program expenses will go toward full-time employee and field crew salaries. The group plans to announce new job listings for the project in January 2023.

"We are proud to create good paying jobs for our local gateway communities," said Co-Executive Director Newman.

"We hope this work will also provide indirect benefits by improving wildlife populations and supporting the local wildlife-based recreational economy."

The group plans to announce new job listings for the project in January 2023.

Each summer when the snow recedes, normally after July 4, volunteer trips are offered to the public at no cost. These are working trips ranging from weed pulls, campsite cleanup, wildlife scouting, or trail maintenance. But they are informal and fun whether you're an experienced or first-time backpacker.

GBCA volunteer projects offer a great way to experience the wild Great Burn ecosystem. Depending on the project, work may start the first or second day, but they will always provide a good mix of work, hike, and downtime.

To learn more about these adventures, contact Skye Borden at (406) 531-6040 or skye@greatburn.org

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