Montana Gets $4 Million for 9,300-Acre Conservation Easement

Posted: September 24, 2011

Source – Missoulian

Montana easmentMontana received a $4 million federal grant Wednesday to purchase a 9,300-acre conservation easement from Stimson Lumber Co. nearTroy.

The easement will help protect some of the state’s best native fisheries and wildlife habitat, officials said.

The grant was announced by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and awarded through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In total, $53 million in federal grants were awarded to 17 states for conservation planning to help protect threatened fish, wildlife and plants.

The Lincoln County easement is adjacent to 18,700 acres of additional Stimson land that the company has offered to sell. That $16 million project is being negotiated by the Trust for Public Land and has been endorsed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The project would round out a landscape-scale conservation effort that has been in the works for years.

“The grant awarded today complements that easement and will benefit native fish species,” said Diane Katzenberger, spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

In total, the 28,000-acre conservation easement contains some of the state’s best fisheries and wildlife habitat, as well as a productive working forest, according to a news release announcing the grant.

It will help maintain connectivity between lake, river and stream systems in the Lake Creek drainage near Bull Lake, and includes over 20 miles of perennial stream that support spawning and rearing habitat for bull trout, Columbia redband trout and westslope cutthroat trout.

The land also provides key wildlife corridors linking public lands in the Cabinet, West Cabinet and Purcell mountains, and benefits elk, bear, wolf, lynx fisher, and wolverine.

Last week, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials recommended that the agency’s commission grant permission to negotiate the terms and purchase of the easement with the Trust for Public Lands and Stimson Lumber.

The commission gave the project a preliminary endorsement.

If the conservation easement is not purchased, Stimson, which is liquidating its land holdings near Missoula, could consider selling the land near Troy for future development.

“This would miss an opportunity to conserve important fish and wildlife habitats across a large landscape,” according to the FWP proposal submitted to the commission.