Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Savenac Nursery

When the Forest Service celebrated its one hundredth anniversary, it recalled one historic site in Montana that played a major role in its history. Creation of the National Forest Service in 1905 brought Elers Koch, one of the nation’s first professional foresters, to inspect and evaluate the Forest Reserves of Montana and Wyoming. As Forest Supervisor of the Bitterroot and Lolo National Forests in 1907, Koch happened upon the abandoned homestead of a German settler named Savannach in Mineral County. He thought it a perfect spot to establish a tree nursery. Work began in 1908. As the first pine seedlings were ready for transplant in 1910, fire swept through the region, burning three million acres of timber and destroying the nursery. The disaster made fire prevention and conservation a primary mission of the Forest Service. Reforestation figured prominently in that goal, and so the Forest Service wasted no time in rebuilding the nursery. Savenac became the largest tree nursery in the Northwest, producing up to twelve million trees annually. Regional reorganization closed the nursery in 1969, but during its long service, Savenac pioneered much of the theory and practice of silviculture right here in Montana’s Mineral County.

Men from the Civilian Conservation Corps mix concrete for improvements to the nursery in 1934.
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, PAc 2003-47.14

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