FWP supports conservation easement near Libby

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Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is recommending the Fish and Wildlife Commission approve the purchase of a conservation easement on the Kootenai Forestlands Conservation Project in Lincoln County.

The recommendation would protect about 22,295 acres of highly productive timberland and important fisheries and wildlife habitat in Northwest Montana around the city of Libby.

The Kootenai Forestlands Conservation Project is a collaborative effort involving Fish, Wildlife and Parks, The Trust for Public Land and Stimson Lumber Co.

The proposed conservation easement, to be held by FWP, would allow Stimson to retain ownership of these timberlands, preclude development, protect important wildlife habitat and key landscape connectivity, and provide permanent public access and associated recreational opportunities.

Hunting opportunities would continue to exist on this property for elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, black bear, mountain lion, wolf, turkeys, and forest grouse.

The property provides high-quality winter range for moose, elk, white-tailed deer, and mule deer; habitat for 43 Species of Greatest Conservation Need (2015 State Wildlife Action Plan), and includes federally designated critical habitat for Endangered Species Act-listed Canada lynx, grizzly bear and bull trout.

Completion of this project would permanently secure free public access for hunting, hiking, fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and other outdoor activities.

“This collaborative project will maintain traditional uses and public access while protecting valuable fish and wildlife habitat at the same time,” said Jim Williams, regional supervisor for FWP in Kalispell.

The scattered parcels of this project share 133 miles of border with the Kootenai National Forest. An increasing number of homes and developments in Lincoln County have occurred in the Wildland-Urban Interface and completion of this project could reduce taxpayer-funded costs of firefighting by 50 to 95% and prescribed fire by 43%. It would also reduce human-wildlife conflicts that come with residential development of properties within wildlife habitat, especially those with grizzly bears, black bears and mountain lions.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks released a draft environmental assessment for public comment from May 30 to June 29, and held a public hearing in Libby on June 12. The state agency received 12 public comments. All comments are addressed in the decision notice.

Copies of the decision notice are available at the FWP office, 490 N. Meridian Rd., Kalispell; Montana State Library, 1515 E. Sixth Ave., Helena; FWP State Headquarters, 1420 E. Sixth Ave., Helena; the FWP website at http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices/decisionNotices/; and available for viewing at local libraries.

For more information, contact Kris Tempel at 406-751-4573 or at ktempel@mt.gov.

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