Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

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

For Release on March 30, 2012
Contact:  Toni Griffin (303) 236-4378

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE RELEASES THE DRAFT COMPREHENSIVE CONSERVATION PLAN FOR BENTON LAKE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE COMPLEX

Public Meetings Scheduled at Various Locations
Public Comments Will Be Accepted Until May 18, 2012

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is making available the Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and Environmental Assessment (EA) for Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge Complex and opening a 45-day public review and comment period. The Service will hold a series of public meetings April 17-19, 2012 at various locations in Montana to solicit input on the draft plan for the Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

The 163,304-acre refuge complex, spanning both sides of the Continental Divide, oversees management of 2 refuges, 1 wetland management district containing 22 waterfowl production areas, and 3 conservation areas, and administers 216 easements within the Refuge System. It is a collection of diverse landscapes, from wetlands and mixed-grass prairie in the east to forests, intermountain grasslands, rivers, and lakes in the west.

The Refuge Complex includes three conservation areas (Blackfoot Valley, Rocky Mountain Front, and Swan Valley) that are collectively referred to as the Service’s Crown of Continent projects. The Crown of the Continent is a general term that refers to a large geographic area along the continental divide in Montana and Canada.

“Under President Obama’s America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are pursuing landscape conservation by forging large landscape partnerships,” said Steve Guertin, Director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region.  “This includes doubling the size of the Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Area and the Blackfoot Valley Conservation Area, and creating the new Swan Valley Conservation Area.” 

The draft CCP and EA identifies the purpose and need for a management plan, outlines the legal foundation for management of the refuge complex, and describes and evaluates alternatives for managing wildlife, habitat, and wildlife-dependent public use for all units of the complex. The draft CCP identifies two different sets of draft alternatives. The first analysis includes three alternatives for managing the Refuge Complex including a No Action Alternative (A),Alternative (B), where management efforts would be focused on maintaining the resiliency and sustainability of native grasslands, forests, shrublands, and unaltered wetlands throughout the refuge complex by emulating natural processes, and a Proposed Action (C). Under the Proposed Action, emphasis would be on self-sustaining systems with ecological processes functioning for long-term productivity. Management efforts would focus on maintaining and restoring ecological processes including natural communities and the dynamics of the ecosystems of the northern Great Plains and northern Rocky Mountains. The second analysis includes five alternatives for addressing the declining condition of the Benton Lake Refuge wetlands.

The Service will conduct public meetings to give a brief overview of the key issues and answer questions. The public will also have an opportunity to offer comments.

Meeting dates, times, and locations are:

  • Tuesday, April 17, 5-7pm, Holiday Inn, 400 10th Avenue South, Trigg Room, Great Falls, MT 59405
  • Wednesday, April 18, 5-7pm, The Pavilion at Choteau City Park, 204 1st Street NE, Choteau, MT 59422
  • Thursday, April 19, 5-7pm, The Stray Bullet, 403 Main Street, Ovando, MT 59854
  • Thursday, April 19, 5-7pm, Swan Valley Center, Hwy 83 Milepost 42, Condon, MT 59826

There are many ways for the public to provide comments on the Draft CCP and EA including written letters, emails, or by attending one of the public meetings. The Service encourages the public to provide feedback on the contents of the plan.

Written comments should be submitted by May 18, 2012 to Toni Griffin, Planning Team Leader, P.O. Box 25486, Denver, CO 80225-0486. Emails can be submitted to toni_griffin@fws.gov.  For more information about the plan call: (303) 236-4378 or (406) 727-7400.

You can view the draft plan online at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/planning/ccp/mt/bnl/bnl.html

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 http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our Twitter feed, watch our YouTube channel and view our Flickr photo stream.

-FWS-