Friday, December 19, 2003
State and federal officials are seeking comment on a unique land-exchange proposal that would bring a portion of Alberton Gorge, the popular fishing and whitewater recreation area near Missoula, into public ownership. The proposed exchange involves Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; the U.S. Forest Service; NorthWestern Energy; River Network, a private nonprofit conservation organization in Portland, Ore.; and the Five Valley Land Trust in Missoula.
Nearly seven miles of shoreline and more than 300 acres would be preserved in the proposed land exchange. The land would be managed by FWP in conjunction with other FWP public access sites in the area. FWP also manages commercial use of this stretch of the Clark Fork River. Thousands of anglers, sportsmen, whitewater enthusiasts and outdoor recreationists use the area each summer.
As part of the exchange, the USFS would accept title to four FWP sites: Frank Lake Fishing Access Site south of Eureka; Tizer Lake Fishing Access Site south of Helena; Park Lake Fishing Access Site north of Clancy; and the Natural Bridge property south of Big Timber. River Network would receive the old Billings FWP Headquarters and parts of two USFS sections near Tarkio. NorthWestern Energy would receive title to a small parcel of USFS land near Hebgen Dam.
Work on this complex land exchange began in 1998 when River Network reached a purchase agreement for the Alberton Gorge property with the Montana Power Company. Since then, NorthWestern Energy acquired the Alberton Gorge property from MPC, and has continued to work with the other parties to pursue the cooperative land exchange.
Recently, River Network assigned its interest in the project to the Missoula-based Five Valleys Land Trust, another nonprofit conservation organization, which will work to complete the proposed exchange.
The Alberton Gorge Land Exchange Environmental Assessment is available for review on the FWP internet site www.fwp.state.mt.us , or at the FWP Helena headquarters office; regional FWP offices in Kalispell, Missoula, Bozeman, and Billings; at USFS supervisor’s offices in Libby, Bozeman, Helena, and Missoula; the USFS Region 1 office in Missoula; and USFS ranger district offices in Big Timber, Superior, Huson and West Yellowstone.
Written comments must be postmarked before 5 p.m., Jan. 27, 2004 and may be sent by mail, fax or email to:
· Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Alberton Gorge LEX, Field Services Division, P.O. 200701, Helena, MT 59620; Fax: 406-444-3023 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
· USDA Forest Service, Alberton Gorge LEX, Attn. Ron Erickson, Lands, PO Box 7669, Missoula, MT 59807; Fax 406-329-3132 or email: email@example.com.
Print or compact disk copies of the document may also be requested from these two offices.