Mountain Ranch Association
Wildfire Grant Committee Progress Report -
CMRA Wildfire Grant Program -
Over the past several years of sustained drought, native
vegetation in our region has undergone considerable stress as the consequence
of extremely low moisture content in live trees and a fading natural resistance
to a variety of parasites and disease.
A blister rust and bark beetle infestation has attacked the
conifer/evergreen stands across much of the state contributing to widespread
concentrations of dead and diseased trees on both public and private lands –
including Cathedral Mountain Ranch.
Prolonged drought, gradual deterioration of forest health, and the
growing accumulation of dead/diseased “host” trees at CMR has sustained the
spread of harmful insect infestation and disease as well as increase the risk
exposure of CMRA Members and their homes to wildfires of either natural or
The 2003 Cathedral Ridge and Saderbalm fires in the
wilderness area to the south of CMR created considerable activity, interest and
tension in our area. Concern was
elevated as fire fighters put CMR residents on evacuation alert, shared
wildfire defense strategies, and positioned Hot Shot crews to maintain
vigilance around our homes. After
discussions among neighbors and at regular CMRA Board meetings, a volunteer
Committee, comprised of interested CMRA directors and members, was organized to
spearhead an effort to improve overall wildfire awareness at CMR, organize
removal of dead or diseased trees and other wildfire fuels from around homes,
common lands and along escape routes, improve forest health, enhance wildlife
habitat and investigate opportunities for grant funding to offset expected
program costs of a longer term wildfire prevention program at CMR.
With the goal of making ‘informed’ recommendations and
decisions, Committee members dedicated many hours to wildfire and fire
ecology research and arranging fact-finding meetings with the US Forest
Service, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Stillwater
Conservation District, Stillwater Mining Company Environmental Department,
professional Foresters, Nye Volunteer Fire Department, and other rural/mountain
Homeowner associations in our region involved in similar projects. Hosted visits to CMR for site-specific
discussions were arranged for representatives from various state and federal
agencies as well as knowledgeable forestry and wildfire defense professionals.
Committee members also toured other mountain home communities and met with
homeowner groups from Red Lodge (400 Ranch) and Boulder River Watershed
Association involved in grant-supported programs to reduce wildfire risk in
their respective communities.
The CMR Committee was ‘a little surprised’ with the success
of its first ever attempt at the grant writing/application process when CMRA
was awarded approximately forty thousand dollars in matching funds for its
Initial Phase Project under the 2004 Western States Wildland Urban Interface
Grant Program. The grant provides for
reimbursement of 50% of allowable costs incurred by CMRA for its program. Those costs may include direct contractor
charges, in-kind or “soft match” charges for volunteered time or services
provided by Members, commercial rates for operating CMRA equipment, costs of
educational materials and general administration time/expenses. The grant was described generally in the
June 2004 mailing to CMRA Members. The
grant conditions and proposed program were discussed in more detail during an
informative and enthusiastic gathering of interested Members at the Lodge on
the evening before the 2004 annual membership meeting and again on the
following day during the CMRA Annual Meeting.
Click to view a copy of our 2004 Grant Application.
‘Phase I’ Program Highlights
After conducting an
initial wildfire risk assessment of CMR in consultation with a professional
Forester, Nye Fire Department personnel and the State Department of
Environmental Quality grant administrator, several key program objectives were
established. These objectives were
applied in our initial grant application and formed the basis for our 2004
Grant Project as well as a conceptual longer-range program outline in the event
future grant funding is desired and available.
The key objectives
- Obtaining permission and participation by a
sufficient number of CMR home or lot owners to allow effective and
efficient demonstration projects to be conducted on reasonably
representative areas comprised of both ‘individual’ and CMRA ‘common
- Limiting the size and scope of the initial
project area to ensure that our first project could showcase the grant
project to our Members and demonstrate, for the State and Federal agencies
controlling grant funds, CMRA’s ability to organize its members and
implement a successful project.
- Completing sufficient work in representative
Demonstration Areas to various compliance standards in order to:
- Allow the CMRA Board, the Wildfire Committee
and its contractor (FIRELINE Fire Protection Services) to better estimate
future project costs and more effectively plan for the remainder of the
- Allow Members to better visualize and assess
the esthetic impacts of the applying Firewise Community/USA™ qualification
standards at a home in CMR’s specific setting. For those interested, a link to the
Firewise Community/USA website: www.firewise.org/usa is provided on the CMR website.
- Determine the level of general Membership
interest in CMRA working toward the Firewise Community /USA™
designation acknowledged by the insurance and mountain real estate
- Demonstrate for Members the visual impacts of
compliance with Western States Wildland Urban Interface Grant Standards
and our grant administrator’s (Beartooth RC&D) specific
“prescription” for hazardous fuel reduction grant compliance and forest
health initiatives at CMR. Click to view a copy of the Hazardous Fuel Treatment Technical Specifications.
- Designation of a suitable location for
implementing our first demonstration project founded on a practical set of
characteristics, priorities and achievable work goals that might enhance
the success potential for CMRA’s grant application, including:
- A preliminary CMR wildfire risk assessment,
concentrations of “hazardous fuel” (dead and diseased trees, dry plant
debris, ladder fuel, etc.) within areas of higher home/cabin density.
- Identification of more critical access/escape
routes for residents, fire fighters and equipment necessary for wildfire
defense and control.
- Proximity to the National Forest boundary or
“wildlands/urban interface” (a key qualification for the grant which the
Committee had targeted).
- Location and defensible status of important CMR
infrastructure including our drinking water system, existing or proposed
fire protection installations, the Lodge, maintenance/equipment area,
- Planned use of a professional contractor and equipment
for the more technical or hazardous project tasks in higher safety risk
areas of denser growth, limited access or rough terrain.
- Designation of select areas and tasks where
Members, families, guests and CMRA equipment can safely participate
in individual or organized group hazardous fuel removal, habitat
restoration and revegetation activities to satisfy our matching
requirements under the grant.
‘Phase I’ Project Progress in 2004:
- The Committee dedicated a lot of hours (and
consumed a lot of Sandi’s cookies) in research, coordination meetings,
telephone calls, emails, travel, writing and proof-reading application
drafts, photographing, tracking down permission waivers, processing
invoices, calculating “match” accounts, responding to Member suggestions,
complaints and complements, and in ‘down right hard physical labor’ in
getting our wildfire fuel reduction project launched. THANK YOU Committee members!
- The Committee was notified of its 2004 Grant
Award back in November 2003; however, funding was not formally available
(and official ‘match’ work couldn’t commence) until later in June 2004.
- The Committee distributed project
waiver/permission requests to the Members after the July Annual Meeting
and by the end of July had received a sufficient cluster of signed owner
waivers to officially launch the first Demonstration Area project.
- In August the CMRA Board approved and executed a
Management Plan Agreement designating Beartooth Resource Conservation
& Development as the agency’s official grant administrator and CMRA’s
technical and forestry coordinator.
- Also in August, CMRA Board executed an agreement
with FIRELINE Fire Protection Services to provide contract services for
the CMR hazardous fuels treatment program in compliance with standards
prescribed under Beartooth RC&D agreement.
- By mid-September, the Contractor’s equipment had
been mobilized to CMR and Fireline personnel commenced project work at the
first (Firewise specs) Demonstration Area in the Sky
View-Rocky-Hawk Trails area. Also, our CMRA Caretaker and equipment
prepared access to and cleared a safe wood slash depository and burn site
on private land (with less rigid limitations for burning) adjacent to the
- A few very ambitious Members worked tirelessly
wearing out their leather gloves at the Demonstration Areas, around their
lots and homes, and with Joe (CMRA Caretaker and equipment operator) in
cleaning up many piles of dead wood stacked by Members at the designated
temporary drop sites around CMR. THANKS
FOLKS… you, the Committee and your Chiropractors know who you
- The “trained eye” and measurements of our
RC&D grant administrator estimated that the combined efforts of our
contractor and Members, had resulted in over 40 tons of tree slash
being cleared from the Demonstration Areas and other parts of CMR and
hauled to the burn site by Thanksgiving weekend!!!
- To meet an October 2004 application deadline,
CMRA submitted supporting data for continued funding under a ‘consolidated
application’ (prepared by Beartooth RC&D) for funding under the 2005
Western Wildland Urban Interface Grant Program. If the grant is approved and CMRA
Members decide to continue with the program, an additional $39,000 of
grant funding, net of all Agency administration fees, could be
available for continuing our program.
This additional grant funding would be made available to CMRA on
the same 50:50 matching basis as our current grant and could be applied to
expanding our wildfire fuel reduction, habitat restoration and revegetation
project at CMR.
- Our 2004 hazardous fuel reduction work project
was ‘wrapped up’ as the contractor removed his equipment with the weather
change in late November. However,
a few ambitious residents and Committee members continued with wood slash
cleanup activities around the ranch until the winter snows came to CMR.
The Wildfire Grant Committee is happy to report to
the CMRA Board and Membership that our 2004 Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project
goals of reducing wildfire risks on a portion of CMR, improving general forest
health, providing ‘demonstration areas’ to allow Members to observe the
physical impact and visual effects of alternative stewardship practices at CMR,
and decide on the future of the project, have been accomplished. We ended the 2004 work season with
approximately $3000 surplus in ‘matching fund accruals’ and approximately
$24,000 remaining of our available Grant fund for continued work in the Spring
The Fire Grant
Committee appreciates the effort and interest expressed by many CMRA residents
and lot owners during the 2004 grant project.
We welcome your continued participation and any ideas or suggestions
that would help make the program better.
Sandi Crawford Ralph
Bill Clossin Mark
and Sue Reynolds