National Forest Foundation

Reforesting the Helena National Forest

Reforesting the Helena National Forest


Working with our individual and small business partners, the NFF helped restore a portion of the Helena National Forest no longer regenerating the native ponderosa pine forests.

Located in mountainous region West-Central Montana, the Helena National Forest covers nearly one million acres of montane forests and high mountains. Portions of the Forest straddle the continental divide, serving as the headwaters for two of our nation’s major river systems: the Columbia and Mississippi Rivers. In addition to being the headwaters for these rivers, the Forest also provides habitat for threatened and endangered animals such as the grizzly bear, as well as sizeable populations of black bear, deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat.

Much of the area that surrounds the Lincoln Ranger District of the Helena was composed of tall ponderosa pines of different ages. Reforestation efforts on the Lincoln Ranger District are focused on reforesting areas that have been impacted by large wildlfire and insect infestation. However, when staff on the Helena began to notice that the local ponderosa pine stands around their ranger station were not regenerating, they decided to put together a plan to ensure that these forests would be around for future generations.

New saplings on the Helena National Forest.
A new sapling with some protection from a stump.
Workers planting trees on the Helena National Forest.
New saplings.
Busy planting!

With support from generous individuals and a variety of our small business partners, the NFF worked together with Helena National Forest staff to provide funding for planting seedlings around the local ranger station in Lincoln, Montana. In spring of 2013, 8,500 native ponderosa pine seedlings were planted around the ranger station. These seedlings were cultivated in a Forest Service nursery, and seeds were collected from a nearby area - ensuring optimal survival for the newly planted trees.

While small in size, these seedlings are a big gift to the forest. These newly planted trees will ensure that there will be adequate regeneration of this forest in the future. As the trees mature decades into the future, they will in turn provide an important seed source for future forests.

Note: In 2015, the Helena and Lewis & Clark National Forests consolidated to one forest: Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest.