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Scoping Notice Bad Rock Canyon Conservation Project

Conservation

10/29/2020

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) may be preparing an Environmental Analysis on a proposal to acquire land through a fee simple purchase in Flathead County, Montana. FWP is working with the Flathead Land Trust on a proposed acquisition of 800 acres of forest along 1.6 miles of the Flathead River near Columbia Falls to protect water quality and important fish and wildlife habitat, while providing free public recreation access. The property is highly developable and threatened by the rapidly growing city of Columbia Falls, but would be protected as a Wildlife Management Area under this proposal. The Columbia Falls Aluminum Company (CFAC), a subsidiary of Glencore, a multi-national company, has decided to dispose of this property. The property is winter range for elk, moose, and white-tailed deer. Completion of this project would safeguard vital habitat and a travel corridor for bull trout and grizzly bears, Endangered Species Act-listed species found on the property. This key corridor is located at a geographic pinch point where the Flathead River flows through the very narrow Bad Rock Canyon. The project is adjacent to a stronghold of public lands and would add to a 12,000-acre network of conserved land along a 43-mile reach of the Flathead River between Columbia Falls and Flathead Lake. The property currently provides an excellent opportunity for youth hunters to harvest elk and white-tailed deer just minutes from Columbia Falls, which would also be lost if this property were developed. A trail has been constructed on the property by Gateway to Glacier Trail, Inc., a local nonprofit group granted a revocable license issued by CFAC to allow access for hikers, bikers, birdwatchers, and others. Under FWP ownership, public access could be managed to preserve wildlife presence and hunting opportunities while allowing compatible trail and property use. CFAC has given FWP and the Flathead Land Trust, our partner on this project, a two-year window to complete this project. The USFS Forest Legacy Program, Habitat Montana, and Pittman-Robertson could all be possible funding sources for this project, along with private funding raised by the Flathead Land Trust. If the project fails, the property would most likely be quickly sold, subdivided, and developed into a high-density neighborhood which would include highly sought-after riverfront lots.

Contact Information

Kris Tempel | Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks | 490 N Meridian Road, Kalispell, MT 59901 | (406) 249-7481 | ktempel@mt.gov

Public Comment

Please give us your feedback on this public notice. Comments must be received by Sunday, November 29, 2020 5:00 PM