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From Fighting Fires to Forest Management – Aviation’s Impact on Forest Health

Saturday, August 19, is National Aviation Day, commemorating aviation's development and its impact on scientific and technological progress.

Aviation’s impact is far-reaching, reaching beyond the skies to the deep roots of Montana’s forests and timber harvesting industry.

Evidence of one of the ways aviation impacts our forests can currently be seen in the skies over Montana, as brave pilots assist firefighters fighting wildfires throughout our state. Planes and helicopters have become vital tools for managing wildfires, from quickly delivering equipment, supplies, and firefighters to difficult-to-reach areas to fighting fire by dropping water and retardant on the frontlines.

Many people don’t know about aviation’s increasing role in forest management and the fight to decrease the risk of large, damaging wildfires before they start.

Timber harvesting is a vital tool for forest management and, when applied strategically, can decrease the risk of large, catastrophic wildfires by thinning overgrown forests and removing dead and fallen trees. Many communities are looking to helicopters to help thin forests in areas that are difficult to reach.

Helicopter logging, or aerial timber harvesting, has been in the news recently, specifically in Arizona, where helicopters are being used to thin forest on the steep slopes around Williams and Flagstaff, areas inaccessible to traditional logging, to reduce the threat of large catastrophic wildfires and damaging post-fire flooding. (Arizona Daily Sun, High-cost steep-slope helicopter logging is working in Williams; Flagstaff will be next, October 7, 2022)

Montana has a long history of helicopter logging thanks to R&R Conner Aviation, based in Conner, Montana. The company was featured on the History Channel’s show “Axe Men” in 2008 and has since expanded into other load lift applications, operating throughout the western United States.

Below is a link to a video produced by R&R Conner Aviation that documents the importance of forest management and timber harvesting on the health of Montana’s forests and how helicopters are effectively used in timber harvesting operations.

Logging in the 21st Century – The Rest of the Story:

Montana’s timber harvesters are working with state agencies to do what they can to help reduce fuel for wildfires and provide the necessary space and tools to help firefighters. They are dedicated stewards of Montana’s forests, working to protect our forests through responsible management for future generations.

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