Montana Senator Steve Daines toured the Frenchtown Face Timber Project on Wednesday, and spoke with area forest stakeholders about the future of federal lands access and the historically extreme fire danger evident in Montana. 

Along with Lolo National Forest Supervisor Tim Garcia, Daines discussed the benefits of active forest management on overall forest health and modern logging practices in the Boone and Crockett Club visitor's center in Missoula.

"With Tri-Con Timber, there's 300 families that are able to keep food on the table here with the jobs associated with that," Daines said. "We're protecting the environment, reducing the risk of wildfires, protecting watershed, and creating jobs and revenue for our communities."

The inaccessibility of timber on federal lands has created big problems for smaller logging companies in Montana. Travis Brazill, a fifth-generation landowner and logger from the Avon-Elliston area, told Daines that his family has over $1 million in logging equipment that is largely unused, due to the lack of timber from federal forest lands..

Daines said he was hopeful regarding coming legislation in partnership with Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke that would help to open up more federal lands to commercial logging.

Daines also commented on the historically dry conditions he observed in forests from Helena to Missoula.

"I think we all can agree in talking with people who have been around for a long time that we may be be heading into one of the most challenging fire seasons we've had in a long time," he said. "It could rise to being historic with conditions that rise to somewhat like they were in '88 and 2000 in terms of temperature and precipitation."

Daines said a new approach to major wildfires could make a difference in how fighting wildfires are funded.

"We could start thinking more in terms of wildfires being a natural disaster instead of being just one more line item in Tim's budget," Daines said. "One percent of the wildfires in our country can eat up 30 percent of our budget. Why can't we treat wildfires like hurricanes or tornadoes like other natural disasters."

Earlier in the day, Daines was the keynote speaker at a Human Trafficking Awareness event at the Hilton Garden Inn.