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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228


August 10, 2005

Contact:   Dave Gillund, (406) 727-7400, ext. 22
                 Gary Sullivan, (406) 727-7400, ext. 25


The Acting Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today approved the establishment of the Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Area.  This approval is the final step in the planning process for the Front, and allows the Service to proceed with the establishment of a conservation easement program to conserve wildlife habitat on private land along the Rocky Mountain Front in north-central Montana.

 The Service plans to purchase perpetual conservation easements from willing sellers on 170,000 acres of private land between Birch Creek and the South Fork of the Dearborn River. The program does not include any fee title acquisition or outright purchase of private land.  Conservation easements are a proven, effective and non-regulatory means by which to conserve high quality wildlife habitat and maintain the historic ranching heritage in Montana.

 The final exterior project boundary is 561,700 acres, within which the Service will seek easements on 170,000 acres.  This final boundary represents a change in the project boundary contained in earlier Service analyses of the project; however, the target easement acquisition goal of 170,000 acres remains unchanged.

 Funding for the easement program would come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is subject to the annual Congressional appropriations process. 

 The purpose of the project is to create and maintain a significant, intact block of important wildlife habitat between existing protected areas, including State Wildlife Management Areas, The Nature Conservancy’s Pine Butte Swamp Preserve and the Boone & Crockett Club’s Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch. 

 Large, working ranches play a major role in supporting and protecting the biological values of the Front.  Long-established ranching families have passed land down over many generations, limiting subdivision and conserving vital fish and wildlife habitat along the Front. 

 “The Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Area is the result of an inclusive planning process,” said Ralph Morgenweck, Regional Director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. “Our many partners contributed significant time and effort to create an approach that will conserve wildlife habitat and help preserve rural economies along the Front.”

 The Front is home to nearly every wildlife species described by Lewis and Clark in 1806, with the exception of free-ranging bison.  Many of these species occur in relatively stable or increasing numbers.  Private lands along the Front include important riparian corridors, wetland complexes and upland habitat for grizzly bears, trumpeter swans, raptors and other migratory birds.

 In late 2004, the Service held a series of open houses in communities along the Front to provide information about, and solicit public input on the project.  The Service also provided an extended opportunity following the open houses for the public to provide written comments on the project.

 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies. 

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