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FWP Plans Open House in Columbia Falls on Proposed Stoltze Forest Conservation Easement Project

Education - Region 1

Fri May 08 14:43:13 MDT 2015

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) will be sponsoring a public open house on April 28th in Columbia Falls to obtain preliminary public input on two proposed conservation easement projects on lands owned by the F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company. The meetings will run from 7:00-9:00 pm and will take place at the Columbia Falls fire hall located at 624 1st Avenue West. One conservation easement would cover approximately 3,020 acres in the Haskill Creek watershed and would be co-held by the City of Whitefish and FWP, and the other around 7,150 acres along Trumbull Creek would be held by FWP.

At the meeting, personnel from FWP, Stoltze, and The Trust for Public Land will be on hand to discuss the proposed projects, answer questions, and gather issues, concerns, or ideas raised by the public, adjoining landowners, and any other interested people. This input will then be used by FWP in developing their draft Environmental Analysis document for the proposed project.

The two conservation easements would be purchased by The Trust for Public Land and conveyed to FWP using funding from a variety of sources including the City of Whitefish, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Conservation Plan Program, and the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program. The preliminary estimated value of the two conservation easements is about $33 million. Stoltze has agreed to donate a portion of the conservation easement value as match to these grants. In cooperation with the City of Whitefish and The Trust for Public Land, FWP would purchase two separate conservation easements on property owned by F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company to conserve working forest lands along the southern slopes of the Whitefish Range

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization that uses real estate expertise and a cooperative approach in partnership with landowners, community groups, and public agencies to create parks and protect land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come.

The proposed conservation easements would help maintain current land uses on these private lands by restricting development and other activities not compatible with continued forest management as a way to sustain existing fish and wildlife values on the properties. The conservation easements would also guarantee that the public will be able to continue accessing these lands into perpetuity, and would allow for separate agreements to develop recreational trails. FWP and Stoltze would also develop a management plan as part of the conservation easement proposals that would clarify how land management and public recreation activities would continue to take place in a manner that ensures the overall fish and wildlife habitat values are maintained.

The proposed conservation easements and management plan would be similar to other forest conservation projects completed by FWP for commercial timberlands in the Thompson, Fisher, Swan River, Kootenai and Lake Creek valleys.


Contacts:

Alan Wood awood@mt.gov / 406-751-4595,
Tim Thier tthier@mt.gov / 406-882-4697
Or Kenny Breidinger kbreidinger@mt.gov / 406-751-4543