Scoping period opens on potential conservation easement for 113,000 acres of timberland in northwest Montana
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: February 2, 2022

KALISPELL — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is opening a public scoping period for a potential project that would place approximately 113,951 acres of timberland in northwest Montana under a conservation easement and protect working lands, public recreation access, and wildlife habitat.

FWP is working with The Trust for Public Land and landowners SPP Montana, LLC and Green Diamond Resource Company on the potential easement around the Thompson Chain of Lakes in Lincoln, Flathead, and Sanders counties.

If approved, FWP would hold the conservation easement while SPP and Green Diamond would maintain ownership of the land. The easement would preclude development on those lands, protect important wildlife habitat and landscape connectivity, and provide public access and associated recreational opportunities. The U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, the Habitat Montana program, and grant funding raised by TPL would be likely funding sources if this proposal were to proceed.

A scoping period gives the public a chance to tell FWP what issues and concerns members of the public think should be considered in an environment assessment before the department begins drafting the document.

This potential project, named the Montana Great Outdoors Conservation Project, is similar to other conservation easements on timberlands across the region. The project borders Thompson Chain of Lakes State Park, the 142,000-acre Thompson-Fisher Conservation Easement, and the 100,000-acre U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Lost Trail Conservation Area as well as the Kootenai National Forest and Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation lands.

The property currently provides abundant public hunting and angling opportunities that would be permanently secured under this proposal.

This project would conserve key winter range and a movement corridor for elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and moose. It would provide critical habitat for grizzly bear and Canada lynx, federally threatened species found on the property, and protect streams for the westslope cutthroat trout and Columbia River redband trout, both Montana species of concern.

The 30-day scoping period will begin Feb. 2, 2022 and conclude March 4, 2022.

Comments can be submitted to chammond@mt.gov or Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Chris Hammond, Re: Proposed Conservation Easement, 490 N. Meridian Road, Kalispell, MT, 59901.

Comments received from this preliminary evaluation will help FWP determine public interest, identify potential issues that would require further analysis, and may provide insight for refining the proposal or for developing and analyzing one or more alternatives.