Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

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

  

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

BENTON LAKE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE COMPLEX

922 Bootlegger Trail, Great Falls, MT, 59404

 

May 7, 2010

 

Contact:    Kathy Burchett, (406) 7227-7400 ext.222

                Jim Lange, (406) 727-7400, ext. 228

                Toni Griffin (303) 236-4378

 

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE TO HOST PUBLIC MEETING ON

PROPOSAL TO EXPAND CONSERVATION EASEMENT PROGRAM ALONG THE  ROCKY MOUNTAIN FRONT

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hold a meeting to discuss a proposal to expand its easement program on the Rocky Mountain Front. The program, created in 2005, involves the purchase of perpetual conservation easements on private land in the western portion of Lewis and Clark, Teton and Pondera 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 along the Front. No fee title acquisition of private land is authorized or would occur under the existing or proposed expansion of the program.  Conservation easements on the Front will be managed as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

 

“The Service and private landowners continue to find common ground in Montana,” said Gary Sullivan, the Service’s Montana Realty Supervisor.  “Together, we have recognized protecting important fish and wildlife habitat and maintaining working ranches go hand in hand.  Conservation easements are an effective, proven approach to accomplishing both of these objectives.”

 

Service staff will share information, answer questions and take public comments about the proposed expansion at the meeting, which is an “open house” format and scheduled for:

 

Monday, May 17, in Choteau, Montana, at the Stage Stop Inn, 1005 Main Avenue North, from 4  -7 pm.

 

The Service is proposing to expand the existing easement program by adjusting the existing project boundary to create additional opportunities to work with private landowners and other conservation partners. Conservation easements are an effective, proven tool for connecting and protecting important habitat for fish and wildlife species while also sustaining the Front’s working landscapes and traditional economies.

 

Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, the Service is initiating an environmental assessment to analyze the potential impacts of the proposed expansion. The May 17 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 Rocky Mountain Front 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.

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