The State Board of Land Commissioners on June 18 reviewed and approved two significant projects to secure important wildlife habitat agreed to at the June meeting of the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission. Acquisition of 106 acres in Lake County will expand the Ninepipe Wildlife Management Area to 3,571 acres and on the Blackfoot-Clearwater winter elk range, exchange agreements are part of a long-range project to consolidate FWP lands there.
"The 106-acre parcel immediately next to the Ninepipe WMA and near the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge is extremely productive upland bird and waterfowl habitat," said Paul Sihler, FWP Field Services Administrator. The general area supports one of the highest recorded densities of redhead ducks, short-eared owls, rough-legged hawks, and northern harriers. A public review and 30-day comment process ending May 31 demonstrated unanimous public support for the acquisition. The Mission Valley Chapter of Pheasants Forever donated $5,000 toward the acquisition and the Big Sky Upland Bird Association donated $400 as a show of their support.
The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation will grant FWP 1,080 acres of timberland in Missoula county in the heart of the Blackfoot-Clearwater game range valued at approximately $2 million. In return, FWP will grant to DNRC 1,740 acres of land in Powell County of an approximately equal value.
The exchange agreements approved in the Blackfoot-Clearwater WMA are part of a larger three-way land exchange with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and Plum Creek Timber that will consolidate FWP lands and improve management of the winter elk range. The exchange provides DNRC with lands on the exterior of the game range more easily managed to meet state land trust objectives.