Montana Fish, Wildlife And Parks will be sponsoring public open houses in both Libby and Troy to obtain preliminary public input on the proposed 28,000-acre Stimson Forest Conservation Easement project.
The meetings will run from 5-7:30 p.m. and will take place on Oct. 3 in Libby at the First Montana Bank meeting room and on Oct. 4 in the Troy High School library.
At the meetings, FWP, Stimson, and Trust For Public Land personnel will be on hand to discuss the proposed project, answer questions, and gather issues, concerns, or ideas raised by the public, adjoining landowners, and any other interested people. This input will then be used by FWP in developing their draft environmental analysis document for the proposed project.
The proposed 28,000 acre conservation easement would be purchased below appraised value by FWP using funding from a variety of sources including a recently awarded $4 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Conservation Plan Program. Other potential funding sources include the Forest Legacy Program, and Bonneville Power Administration.
The preliminary estimated value of the conservation easement is about $16 million.
The landowner is willing to donate a portion of the conservation easement value as match to these grants. The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization, uses real estate expertise and a cooperative approach in partnership with landowners, community groups, and public agencies to protect lands for public use.
The proposed conservation easement to be held by FWP would help maintain current land uses on these private lands by restricting development and other activities not compatible with continued forest management. The conservation easement would ensure the public has the right to access these lands in perpetuity and would include management limitations within the corridors along major fish-bearing streams. FWP and Stimson would also develop a management plan as part of the conservation easement proposal that would clarify how land management and public recreation activities would continue to take place in a manner that ensures the overall fish and wildlife habitat values are maintained.
The proposed conservation easement and management plan would be similar to other forest conservation projects completed for private corporate timberlands in the Thompson, Fisher, and Swan River valleys.