In a return to its historic roots, a new national museum will celebrate the U.S. Forest Service in Missoula.
Plans for the future National Museum of Forest Service History will be unveiled at a special gathering Tuesday. Construction on the actual building may begin within a year.
The first Forest Service district office was opened in Missoula in 1908, and eventually became the headquarters for Forest Service Region 1.
Former Region 1 supervisor and now Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell will lead a group of dignitaries in unveiling the plans.
A tour of the project takes place Tuesday at 11:15 a.m. In addition to Tidwell, invited dignitaries include the National Museum of Forest Service History's Gray Reynolds, James Deutsch of the Smithsonian Institution, Missoula Mayor John Engen, state Sen. Dave Wanzenried, Missoula County Commissioner Bill Carey and Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Alex Apostle.
The museum will be built on a 36-acre site at 6305 Highway 10 W., about a mile west of Missoula International Airport. Its public and private partners have already raised more than $3.2 million for site purchase, building design and museum conceptual planning. Another $8 million must be raised to complete construction and exhibit displays. Once that is in hand, construction should take about nine months.
Features will include a 3-D theater, an authentic ranger cabin and fire lookout and memorial tree grove.
When complete, the $12 million facility is expected to house more than 40,000 exhibits. It will cover the cultural, ecological, economic, political and social history of the Forest Service, and the lands and communities it influenced.
The nonprofit National Museum of Forest Service History was founded in 1988. For the past three years, the museum's board members and volunteers have been preparing the site, designing the 30,000-square-foot building and planning exhibits for it to display.
Tuesday is also the date for the annual Museum of Forest Service History members' meeting, the 2009 Forest Service Reunion and the USFS Leadership Council meeting.
Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.