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FWP Recommends Approval of Conservation Easement to Protect Over 22,000 Acres Near Libby

Fish & Wildlife - Region 1

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Kalispell, MT — 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.

As proposed in Alternative A of an environmental assessment (EA), the recommendation would protect approximately 22,295 acres of highly productive timberland and important fisheries and wildlife habitat in northwestern Montana around the City of Libby.

FWP released a draft EA for public comment from May 30 to June 29, 2019, and held a public hearing in Libby on June 12. FWP received 12 public comments. All comments are addressed in the decision notice.

The Kootenai Forestlands Conservation Project is a proposal by FWP and The Trust for Public Land (TPL) to owned by the Stimson Lumber Company. This conservation project is a collaborative effort involving Stimson, TPL, and FWP. 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 ESA-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.

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 50-95% 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.

“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.

Copies of the decision notice are available at the FWP office, 490 N. Meridian Rd., Kalispell; Montana State Library, 1515 E. 6th Ave., Helena; FWP State Headquarters, 1420 E. 6th 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 (406-751-4573; ktempel@mt.gov).