With the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the lead agency, the Service conducted this land protection planning effort to implement the "Resources Development Act of 2000, Title VIII–Wildlife Refuge Enhancement" (known as Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge Enhancement Act of 2000). The act directs the selling of cabin sites at Fort Peck Lake. The proceeds are deposited in the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust for use in acquiring other lands with greater wildlife and other public value for the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. The purpose of these land purchases is to do the following:
The Corps operates the Fort Peck Project (Fort Peck Dam and Fort Peck Lake) in northeastern Montana, nearly all of which is within the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. The lake is the nation’s fourth largest reservoir and backs up from the dam about 135 river miles to the west and south. Surrounding the water surface, the Fort Peck Project encompasses more than 400,000 acres in Fergus, Garfield, McCone, Petroleum, Phillips, and Valley counties. Structures, human occupancy, increased roads, and off-road travel have diminished the quality of grasslands in this area for the sharp-tailed grouse and other grassland-nesting birds. Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge has native prairies, forested coulees, river bottoms, and badlands. Common mammals include mule and white-tailed deer, elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, and beaver.
Four recreation areas on Fort Peck Lake have 367 cabin sites leased by the Corps. The Service determined that the 355 leased sites at Hell Creek, the Pines, Fort Peck, and North Fork of Rock Creek will not create unacceptable inholdings within the refuge and can be sold. However, the Service found that the 12 cabin sites at South Fork of Rock Creek are unacceptable inholdings within the refuge and have not been approved for sale. Retaining these 12 properties and removing them as cabin sites will improve the quality of native wildlife habitat by reducing roads and traffic, thereby reducing human disturbance to wildlife, and rehabilitating disturbed areas.
The expected proceeds from sale of 355 cabin sites will allow the Service to buy property from willing sellers and protect as much as 10,000–40,000 acres of habitat as additions to Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. The Service will focus purchases on native prairie, riparian habitat, and sagebrush steppe, with the following qualifiers:
The priority for acquisition of the above habitat types follows:
Environmental assessment 2004 (1 MB PDF)