Melita Island Woodland Rehabilitation Project

Montana Council, Boy Scouts of America, is underway with a woodland transformation project on Melita Island after devastating stress on trees due to root rot and dwarf mistletoe, in combination with defoliation by Tussock moth and mortality by bark beetle.

Melita Island, a 64-acre island owned by Montana Council located on Flathead Lake, is home to Camp Melita Island, a premier Montana Council summer camp.

The biggest issue is safety to the over 1,000 youth and staff who make the island their home throughout the summer. Recent winds have toppled large trees due to the weak and diseased root systems. Safety to the youth served continues to be Montana Council’s top concern.

Rehabilitating the island to a healthy and natural ecosystem while eliminating the potential spread of issues to neighboring properties, however, also takes priority.

“Montana Council has created a task team of qualified natural resource professionals to guide the process,” John Manz, a distinguished alumnus of the W. Frankie College of Forestry & Conservation, University of Montana (2004), and Vice President Administration, Montana Council. “This is a long-term project to ensure the island remains a destination Scout camp, continuing to attract Scouts from across the United States.”

Montana Council, BSA is working closely with the Center for Native Plants in Whitefish, Mont., on the project.

Primary tree species on the island are Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir with a minimal, scattered population of Western Juniper and various hardwoods.

The Douglas fir Tussock moth infestation, now in its third year, has resulted in severe defoliation of the stressed trees with significant mortality from bark beetles. Issues besides the mortality include excessive lean, shallow rots with minimal to no tap root and root rot creating a hazardous environment.

Douglas fir will be the majority of the trees removed. Old-growth Ponderosa pine, a signature tree for the island, will be conserved.

An aggressive replanting process begins immediately and includes an impressive reforestation of mostly deciduous trees and sufficient shrubs, including chokecherry.

Weather depending, tree removal is expected to start the last week of October. The burning of slash piles is expected to begin in early November with visual smoke. Please be advised that smoke from Melita Island is planned and a controlled burn.

Scouting programs at Melita Island are heavily water-based with courses including sailing, kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, boating, swimming, snorkeling, fishing, shooting sports, nature, camping, first aid and more.

Montana Council serves 7,250 youth with over 3,000 volunteers. Acting on the principles of making a difference through civic service, Scouting provides quality youth programs that build good character while building better communities.

The mission of the Montana Council is to help young people make ethical and moral decisions over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

“This was a hard decision for us to make,” said Jory Dellinger, Deputy Scout Executive. “We know, however, that we will be providing a safe space for our youth. That is our most important priority. We will also be reviving a healthily managed forest and natural ecosystem on the island for future generations.”