Draft Environmental Assessment Published for Flathead Lake State Park Permanent Easement Acquisition
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: December 5, 2019

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) jointly propose the purchase of a permanent recreation easement for Big Arm State Park along Flathead Lake.

A draft environmental analysis detailing the proposal, including two alternatives, is available for review and open to public input through Dec. 31.

Big Arm State Park is located on State School Trust property that is leased annually by FWP from DNRC. The park provides a public recreation and lake access site in the Big Arm Bay of Flathead Lake in Lake County approximately 18 miles north of Polson.

Two alternatives are proposed in the draft EA. The first alternative proposes the purchase of a permanent recreation easement for the existing 218-acre park for the appraised value of $8.06 million. A second alternative proposes the purchase of a permanent recreation easement for the existing 218-acre park plus approximately 23 acres of adjoining state school trust land that would expand the park on its southern boundary. The cost for this alternative would be the appraised value of $10.63 million.

By creating a permanent recreation easement with a one-time payment, DNRC and FWP mutually agree that this proposal would fulfill the mission for DNRC of generating revenue to support education in Montana, while providing FWP the ability to provide continued management of the property as a public recreation and lake access facility. FWP would pay full market value of the property for a permanent recreation easement. Funding would be broken up into a variety of potential (state, federal and private) sources, including FWP’s general license account, Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson federal aid, state parks earned revenue, Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

The 2019 Montana Legislature approved House Bill 695, which authorizes FWP to spend up to $12 million to purchase a permanent recreation easement on the Big Arm site from DNRC.

Big Arm State Park is one of Montana’s flagship recreation parks and is annually among the top four most heavily used public campgrounds in Montana’s state park system. The park is one of the best access points for boating and angling access on Flathead Lake.

The draft EA is available online at fwp.mt.gov, stateparks.mt.gov, and dnrc.mt.gov. Hard copies of the draft EA are available upon request.

The public comment period will extend for 30 days, and close at 5 p.m., January 3, 2020. Written comments can be submitted to Montana FWP Region 1, Attn: Big Arm Permanent Easement Proposal – Parks Division, 490 N. Meridian Rd., Kalispell, MT 59901.