HELENA, Mont — The Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team (MSGOT) is soliciting public comment on a draft Environmental Assessment regarding a proposed grant from the Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Stewardship Fund to support the 44 Ranch Inc. Conservation Easement Proposal.
The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) is proposing to purchase a 18,033-acre permanent conservation easement on the 44 Ranch, which is located in Petroleum and Fergus counties. The ranch is located entirely within lands classified as Core Sage Grouse Habitat; a minimum of 30 sage-grouse leks are located within four miles of the ranch, with 53 leks located within 12 miles. MLR presented the application for the easement at the May 24, 2016, MSGOT public meeting.
MLR is requesting $1,500,000 from the Fund, which would be matched with $375,000 from a private source, and a donation of $527,971 from the landowner. The projected value of the easement is $2,366,831.
Interested parties have until Nov. 2, 2016, to submit comments on the draft environmental assessment, where the proposed state action is for MSGOT to enter the grant agreement with MLR so MLR can purchase the easement. MLR would hold the easement. The state retains third party contingent rights to enforce the easement’s terms and will retroactively calculate credits and make them available in a compensatory mitigation marketplace in the future. MSGOT will review the final Environmental Assessment, all public comments received, and other documents pertinent to this grant proposal at its Nov. 18, 2016, meeting, and is expected to make a final decision on the proposal.
Comments on the draft environmental assessment may be submitted through standard mail to Carolyn Sime, Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program, Montana DNRC, PO Box 201601, Helena, MT 59620-1601 (must be postmarked mailed on or before Nov. 2, 2016). Submit comments electronically and attach documents using the public comment Web tool located on the MSGOT Web page at https://sagegrouse.mt.gov/grants.html Electronic comments must be received by 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 2, 2016.
To join the Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program listserve and receive notices of all program activities, visit www.sagegrouse.mt.gov.
The Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program works to sustain viable sage grouse populations and conserve habitat, enabling Montanans to maintain control of their lands, wildlife, and economy by avoiding a listing of the greater sage grouse under the federal Endangered Species Act.