U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
BENTON LAKE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE COMPLEX
922 Bootlegger Trail, Great Falls, MT, 59404
May 7, 2010
Contact: Kathy Burchett, (406) 727-7400, ext. 222
Kevin Ertl, (406) 793-0050
Toni Griffin (303) 236-4378
U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE TO HOST PUBLIC MEETING ON
PROPOSAL TO EXPAND BLACKFOOT VALLEY
CONSERVATION EASEMENT PROGRAM
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hold a meeting to discuss a proposal to expand its conservation easement program in the Blackfoot Valley. The project, initially established in 1994, involves the purchase of perpetual conservation easements on private land in Missoula, Powell & Lewis and Clark Counties. The meeting will provide the public an opportunity to learn more about the Service’s proposal to purchase additional conservation easements from willing sellers whose lands provide important habitat for fish and wildlife resources in the Blackfoot Valley.
“The Blackfoot Valley has a long and successful history of collaborative conservation efforts that have resulted in protecting large, working landscapes, maintaining rural economies, and restoring watershed health, said Kevin Ertl, a Service biologist working in the Blackfoot Valley. “Conservation easements have been an essential tool for the Service and for private landowners working to accomplish these objectives.”
Service staff will share information, answer questions and take public comments about the conservation area proposals at the meeting, which will feature a presentation by the Service, followed by questions and answer session with the public, is scheduled for:
Wednesday, May 19, in Ovando, Montana, at the Ovando School, 108 Birch Street, from 7 pm to 9 pm.
The Service is proposing to expand the existing Blackfoot Valley easement program by adjusting the existing project boundary to create additional opportunities to work with private landowners and other conservation partners. Conservation easements are a proven, effective tool for connecting and protecting important habitat for fish and wildlife species while also sustaining the Valley’s working landscapes and traditional economies. Easements purchased by the Service are managed as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, the Service is initiating an environmental assessment to analyze the potential impacts of the conservation area proposals. The May 19 meeting is part of the scoping phase for the environmental assessment, during which the Service is working with county commissioners, the State of Montana, conservation organizations, landowners, and other interested parties to collect information about the project areas, wildlife and wildlife habitat, and the potential impacts of the proposal. Following scoping, the Service will complete the assessment, the outcome of which will determine whether the Service should proceed with the proposed expansion of the Blackfoot Valley conservation easement program.
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.