FWP opens public comment period on potential conservation easement on 27,000 acres in Lincoln County
By angelamontana

Posted: November 1, 2020

KALISPELL — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is opening a public comment period on a potential proposal to purchase a conservation easement on 27,289 acres of forested land in Lincoln County.

FWP is working with The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Stimson Lumber Company on the proposed project that would encompass highly productive timberland in northwest Montana east and south of Libby. The proposed conservation easement, to be held by FWP, would allow Stimson to retain ownership of these timberlands, preclude development, protect important wildlife habitat and key landscape connectivity, and provide public access and associated recreational opportunities.

Comments received from this preliminary evaluation will help FWP determine public interest, identify potential issues that would require further analysis, and could provide insight for refining the proposal or developing and analyzing additional alternatives. Upon completion of the preliminary evaluation, FWP will determine next steps, which could include conducting an environmental analysis with additional opportunity for public input or taking no further action on the proposed project.

The 30-day comment period will begin Oct. 30, and comments are due by Nov. 29.

The U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program and grant funding raised by TPL would be likely funding sources if this proposal were to proceed. In a preliminary funding application to the Forest Legacy Program, this proposed project ranked third in the nation out of 46 projects due to its high conservation values. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the funding source for the Forest Legacy Program.

This project, called Kootenai Forestlands Conservation Project Phase 2, would protect key winter range and a migratory corridor for elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer and moose. In addition, it would protect critical habitat for bull trout, grizzly bear and Canada lynx, ESA-listed Threatened species found on the property.

The project would also limit the expansion of human-wildlife conflicts that come with residential development of properties within wildlife habitat, especially those with grizzly bears, black bears and mountain lions.

The property currently provides popular access for public hunting and angling, which would be secured in perpetuity under this proposal. Completion of this project would build on the success of the nearby Forest Legacy Program-funded 142,000-acre Thompson-Fisher Conservation Easement, the 28,000-acre Kootenai Valleys Conservation Easement, and the recently completed 22,295-acre Kootenai Forestlands Conservation Project Phase I, which was the first phase of this project. Forest Legacy projects in Montana and Idaho have cumulatively helped to conserve 317,000 acres of working forestlands.

To read the full evaluation notice, visit http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices. Submit either written or e-mailed comments by Nov. 29, to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; Kris Tempel, Habitat Conservation Biologist; Re: Proposed Conservation Easement; 490 N. Meridian Road; Kalispell, MT 59901 or ktempel@mt.gov.

For more information, contact Kris Tempel at (406) 249-7481 or via email at ktempel@mt.gov.