Much of the land which now comprises the Lubrecht Forest was acquired by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1864 as part of a large government land grant. In the 1890s, the Anaconda Copper Company purchased some of the Northern Pacific holdings as a timber source for their Butte mines. In 1927, T.C. Spaulding, Dean of the School of Forestry at The University of Montana, began negotiations to obtain land in the Blackfoot as a site for an experimental forest. The area was ideally suited for this purpose because the productivity, soil types, and timber species represent much of western Montana.
The Lubrecht Forest was created in 1937 when the Anaconda Company donated 19,058 acres to the Experiment Station. Two years later the Northern Pacific donated an additional 1,210 acres. Over the years smaller tracts have been obtained from private individuals to bring the total acreage to its present figure. The forest was named for W.C. Lubrecht (manager of the Anaconda Company lumber operations at Bonner) who visualized the value of forestry research to the lumber industry of Montana. His efforts, together with those of Dean Spaulding, were responsible for the establishment of this forest.
The headquarters of the forest are located in the Castles Forestry Center, made possible through a grant from the Murdock Foundation and gifts from other private donors. Dedicated in the fall of 1983, this building contains offices, classrooms, and laboratories and is used for research, teaching, workshops, and training sessions. Across the meadow, the student camp consists of a recreation hall, kitchen/dining hall, bathhouse, rustic sleeping cabins, and shop maintenance facilities. Many of these buildings were constructed by students in the 1950s using lumber sawn on site from the forest. Many of the sleeping cabins are bunkhouses from old railroad logging camps that were donated by the Anaconda Company in the early 1960s. In 1996, overnight facilities were vastly improved by the addition of a 32-bed lodge and two one-bedroom research apartments. The Castles Forestry Center, lodge, apartments, and dining hall are all wheelchair accessible.
Geology and Soils: Six broad rock types are found within the forest: 1) gravels, 2) siltstones, sandstones and conglomerates, 3) quartz monzonite, 4) calcareous marble, 5) quartzites and argillites, and 6) several types of igneous dikes and sills. Soils on the forest belong to 23 distinct soil series and five soil series combinations.
Timber: There are four major timber types on the forest. Western larch and Douglas-fir are located on the north-facing slopes and ponderosa pine is dominant on south-facing slopes and the well-drained bottomlands. Lodgepole pine grows in dense, even-aged stands throughout the eastern portion of the forest. The timber is predominantly second growth, originating after logging and slash burning in the early part of this century.
Range: The forest is divided into five grazing units, four of which are grazed to a total capacity of 1,875 animal unit months. The fifth area is normally not grazed and is used for research projects where livestock grazing would be detrimental.
Wildlife: The Lubrecht Forest supports a wide range of birds and mammals. Over 30 species of birds and 36 species of mammals have been identified on the forest, including eagles, hawks, owls, elk, deer, moose, bobcat, coyote, black bear and mountain lion.
Recreation: Lubrecht Forest offers year-round recreational opportunities. The forest is open for hunting, fishing, cross country skiing and general hiking. In cooperation with adjoining public and private landowners, the forest is involved in a variety of recreational programs and walk-in areas along the Blackfoot River Recreation corridor.
The Lubrecht Experimental Forest serves as a field laboratory for the education of College of Forestry and Conservation students. Many classes utilize the forest to learn mensuration, forest ecology, wildlife and water measurements, prescribed fire, and forest protection.Lubrecht's second-growth forest is typical of what future foresters will manage and the variety of timber age classes here offers wide experience in operations such as planting, thinning, weeding, and pruning.
Researchers at the College of Forestry and Conservation use the forest to develop improved management information for second-growth forests. Numerous silvicultural studies have been installed to measure effects of stand management treatments on timber production and other multi-resource values. Ecosystem studies are leading to a fundamental understanding of plant and animal ecological relationships. Forage production and range management studies are aimed at optimizing domestic livestock production in harmony with other values. New studies are expanding knowledge in ecology, genetics, silviculture, forest grazing, fire, timber management, hydrology, and forest recreation.