DENVER, Co. - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today opened a public scoping period to determine public interest, identify issues that require further analysis, and gather insight on a proposal to create a Missouri Headwaters Conservation Area in Beaverhead County and portions of Madison, Deer Lodge, Jefferson and Silver Bow counties, Montana. If created, the Conservation Area could authorize the Service to work with willing sellers to acquire up to a proposed 250,000 acres of conservation easements within the proposed Conservation Area boundary (see map).
Upon completion of the public scoping phase, the Service will determine next steps, which may include development of a Land Protection Plan to establish the Conservation Area and would include additional opportunities for public input.
Conservation easements protect wildlife habitat, open space and working lands into the future, helping preserve the rural way of life, including ranching. Acquisition of conservation easements would be voluntary and would occur over decades as funds are available and allocated. The Service would use federal Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars to purchase easements within the Conservation Area. These funds are derived from federal offshore oil and gas leasing and are not taxpayer dollars. No fee-title acquisition would be authorized.
The primary objectives of the proposed project include preserving important wildlife habitat and migration corridors and allowing properties to be managed for agricultural use. For more information, visit https://www.fws.gov/project/proposed-missouri-headwaters-conservation-area
The proposed project area is a stronghold for wildlife that has disappeared from much of their historic range and is the centerpiece for connectivity between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Crown of the Continent, and the wilderness of central Idaho. In particular, the proposed project area includes high-priority connectivity and movement corridors for wide-ranging species such as grizzly bear, pronghorn, elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep. The proposal will use conservation easements to protect wildlife habitat and help maintain this connectivity between protected blocks of habitat on public and private conservation lands.
The scoping period will begin today, September 20 and end on October 26, 2023. Update: The Service is extending the public scoping period to November 27, 2023 to give the public additional time to provide input on the project.
The Service is also hosting three open-house meetings in southwestern Montana where the public can learn more about this proposed project and provide written comments on the proposal. The open houses will be:
October 10, 6-8 pm, in Wisdom at the Community Center, Wisdom, MT 59761
October 11, 6-8 pm in Dillon at the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Office, 840 North Montana St., Dillon, MT 59725
October 12, 6-8 pm in Alder at the Fire House, 29 Upper Ruby Road, Alder, MT 59710
Please submit official written comments to:
Mail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn: Ben Gilles, 922 Bootlegger Trail Great Falls, MT 59404
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), Flickr, and YouTube.