Thursday, July 8, 2010

MT FWP Purchasing 28,000 Acre Ranch

That wonderful agency we call Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks is at it again.

MT FWP Could Soon Purchase 28,000 Acre Ranch

For more details, visit the FWP Website.

Two state agencies are taking public comment on a Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks proposal to buy a nearly 28,000-acre ranch near Deer Lodge.

FWP has requested $16.5 million in restoration funds administered by the state Natural Resource Damage Program to purchase the Spotted Dog Ranch.

The ranch would become a state Wildlife Management Area and be managed for fish and wildlife habitat and seasonal public access.

The lands are home to the largest concentration of wintering elk in the Upper Clark Fork River basin and provide yearlong habitat for antelope, mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose, black bear and other species. The land is bordered on two sides by national forest land. The ranch and intermingled school trust lands total about 38,000 acres.

"Spotted Dog provides a unique opportunity to permanently protect and manage a large, intact landscape between the Blackfoot and Clark Fork watersheds for a v ariety of fish and wildlife species," said Mack Long, FWP Region 2 supervisor. "The purchase would also ensure lasting public access to previously inaccessible lands."

The property is owned by the Rock Creek Cattle co.

The Natural Resource Damage Program said the project qualifies for funding by restoring or replacing resources injured by historic mining and smelting in the Upper Clark Fork basin. However, the project proposal would require an amendment of the NRDP's grant process to receive founding outside the regular NRDP grant cycle.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer said he supports the purchase of what he calls "extraordinary habitat for an array of species."

FWP is seeking comment on the draft environmental impact statement, while NRDP is asking for public comment on the proposal and an exception to the funding process.

NRDP comments must be received by Aug. 9 and can be sent to NRDP, P.O. Box 201425, Helena, MT 50602, or nrdp(at); or faxed to 4 06-444-0236.

FWP is taking comments through July 30 at spotteddog(at), or by mail to Region 2 FWP; Attn: Spotted Dog, 3201 Spurgin Road, Missoula, MT 59804.

A public hearing is planned July 14 in Deer Lodge.

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