Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

 September 15, 2010

Contacts:  Amelia Orton-Palmer 303-236-4211

                 Leith Edgar 303-236-4588

 

Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Develops Habitat Conservation Plan for Endangered and Rare Species

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation has prepared a final Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) providing measures to minimize and mitigate the effects timber harvest and related activities may have on the federally listed grizzly bear, Canada lynx, and bull trout, and two unlisted fish species (westslope cutthroat trout and Columbia redband trout) in Montana. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) harvests timber from forested trust lands to generate revenue for its trust beneficiaries. 

The DNRC prepared the 50-year HCP to address incidental take of the protected species that may result from forest management activities including timber harvest, road construction and maintenance, site preparation and reforestation of harvested areas, and issuance of grazing licenses on forest trust lands. The term 'take' means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.  Incidental take results from, but is not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. 

The Service prepared a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze the effects of the proposed HCP and alternatives and made it available for more than 90 days of public comment in 2009.  Working with the Service, DNRC revised portions of the HCP in response to public comments and results of recent research submitted during the public review period. 

The final HCP would conserve aquatic species by managing for suitable stream habitat conditions, through a program to reduce sediment delivery, correct fish passage barriers, provide a no-harvest buffer, and correct grazing problems.  DNRC revised the HCP to widen the no-harvest stream buffer from 25 to 50 feet and expand application of HCP prescriptions to all fish-bearing streams.

The final HCP would conserve grizzly bears by minimizing disturbance and displacement from suitable habitat and providing for seasonal habitat use and security through a comprehensive access management plan and seasonal restrictions on timber activities.  DNRC also revised the HCP to address helicopter use in secure habitat for grizzly bears.

The final HCP would conserve Canada lynx by maintaining specified amounts of suitable habitat and managing for key habitat elements.  DNRC revised the HCP to increase acres subject to Canada lynx conservation commitments, modified some commitments for potential den sites that were not limiting factors for Canada lynx, and enhanced commitments for foraging habitat that may be a limiting factor for Canada lynx. 

Implementation of the HCP will be funded through the DNRC forest management program, which is in turn funded through revenues generated by land management activities and interest.  The HCP includes a monitoring and adaptive management program to address changing circumstances including natural disturbance events, such as those that might result from climate change, as well as the addition of lands to and possible removal of lands from the HCP project area.

The Service has prepared a final EIS, analyzing DNRC’s final HCP and responding to public comments on the draft EIS and HCP.  Based on these analyses, the Service believes the final HCP will provide for the long-term protection of the species of concern and key natural and ecosystem functions necessary for their survival, and  ensure that any incidental take of covered species will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of those species in the wild.

The Service is releasing the Final EIS/HCP for a final 30-day public review period on September 17, 2010.  The documents may be reviewed by requesting copies on CD-ROM from Kathleen Ports, at 406-542–4330, or Tim Bodurtha, at 406-758–6882.  The documents are also available on the internet at http://www.dnrc.mt.gov/HCP/default.asp or at the following libraries:

  • Missoula Public Library, 301 East Main Street, Missoula, Montana 59802-4799; (406) 721-2665
  • Flathead County Public Library, 247 First Avenue East, Kalispell, Montana 59901-4560; (406) 758-5819
  • Lincoln County Public Library, 220 W. 6th Street, Libby, Montana 59923-1898; (406) 293-2778
  • Lewis and Clark Library, 120 South Last Chance Gulch, Helena, Montana 59601-4165; (406) 447-1690

Comments concerning the Final EIS/ HCP should be submitted in writing to Kathleen Ports, HCP Project Manager, 2705 Spurgin Road, Missoula, MT 59802, facsimile 406–542–4274 or Tim Bodurtha, Fish and Wildlife Service, 780 Creston Hatchery Road, Kalispell, MT  59901, facsimile 406–758–6887. Please send e-mail comments to dnrchcp@mt.gov.

After the end of the public review period, the Service will prepare a Record of Decision, finalize a biological opinion to determine whether the action may jeopardize any listed species, and prepare a findings document that determines whether DNRC’s application for an incidental take permit meets the requirements of section 10(a) of the Endangered Species Act.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.