Montana Forest and Conservation Experiment Station

The Montana Forest and Conservation Experiment Station is the statewide agency research unit of the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation. The MFCES was founded in 1937 and provides base funding for an active research program at the college. That research addresses issues Montanans care about, like water availability and forest management.

The MFCES owns and manages two properties, Lubrecht Experimental Forest and Bandy Experimental Ranch. Both are actively managed for timber and grazing and serve as outdoor laboratories for the college's students and faculty. 

MFCES Station Director
Tom DeLuca

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Research that makes a difference

Some examples of the research and outreach of the MFCES include:

  • MFCES researchers are studying the effects of pre-commercial thinning on tree and stand growth rates in lodgepole and Ponderosa pine forests
  • Professor Kelsey Jencso and the Montana Climate Office are producing data about drought, degree growing days, ground cover stress, and other factors important to the industries and public who rely on Montana's clean available water
  • Professor Carl Seielstad is using advanced laser technology to collect fuels data that will help generate precise, accurate fire models. Landowners will be able to use these models to make decisions about how to protect their resources from fire
  • In a variety of research projects, MFCES scientists are examining management actions to reduce the spread of brucellosis from elk to cattle, the causes of a decline in elk numbers in the Bitterroot Valley, and how grass height relates to survival of the greater sage-grouse

Educating the Next Generation

The College of Forestry & Conservation’s undergraduate student enrollment numbers continue to grow in Ecological Restoration, Resource Conservation, Wildlife Biology and Parks, Tourism & Recreation Management degrees. Students also choose UM for our innovative minor in Wildland Fire Sciences & Management. More than 60% of those students are from out-of-state.

Our graduate students are nationally recognized for the caliber of their research: one is a National Science Foundation fellow while another received a $75,000 grant from the USDA to study the fungus that live on pine beetles.

A recent survey of our graduates found that 97% are employed or in graduate school; 85% of those work in the field they studied in here at UM.

Leveraging external funds

Using the state base funds, the MFCES pursues additional funding to conduct research and outreach that enhances the understanding, stewardship, and use of Montana's timber, water, wildlife, land, and other natural resources in ways that enhance quality of life. The Montana Forest and Conservation Experiment Station manages more than $35,000,000 in additional external grants and contracts. The state's investment in the MFCES provides the matching funds needed to obtain much of this additional funding: for every dollar the state invests, the MFCES leverages an additional $13. Federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, the National Science Foundation, and the National Park Service, as well as state agencies, NGOs, and private foundations all support MFCES research. The USDA's McIntire-Stennis program also provides federal research funds to the MFCES.