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FWP seeks comment on 27,000 acre easement

| July 7, 2021 7:00 AM

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking public comment on a proposal to purchase a conservation easement that would protect approximately 27,289 acres of highly productive timberland, wildlife habitat, and recreation opportunities to the east and south of Libby in northwest Montana.

The property is owned by the Stimson Lumber Company, one of the oldest continuously operating integrated wood products companies in the U.S. with roots dating back to the 1850s. FWP would hold the conservation easement and Stimson would retain ownership of the land and continue to sustainably manage for timber production. The easement would preclude development, protect important wildlife habitat and key landscape connectivity, and provide permanent public access and recreational opportunities on the property.

FWP has scheduled a public hearing for July 14, 2021 at 6 p.m. in Libby at the Libby City Hall, Ponderosa Room, 952 E. Spruce Street, to provide an opportunity to ask questions about the proposed project and submit public comments.

The proposed project would protect key winter range and a movement 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, Endangered Species Act listed Threatened species found on the property.

The property currently provides over 26,500 days per year of public hunting and angling use, 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 22,295-acre Kootenai Forestlands Phase I Conservation Easement, which was the first phase of this project. Forest Legacy projects in Montana and Idaho have cumulatively helped to conserve over 300,000 acres of working forestlands that remain in private ownership while securing permanent public access and habitat conservation.

More information on the proposed conservation easement is available online under Public Notices or at https://fwp.mt.gov/public-notices/news/2021/jun/0629_kootenaiforestlandsce.

Public comments on the draft environmental assessment should be submitted by 5 p.m. on July 28, 2021. Email ktempel@mt.gov or mail comments to Kris Tempel, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 490 North Meridian Road, Kalispell, MT 59901

For more information, contact Kris Tempel at the email address above or at (406) 249-7481.