Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking public review of a proposal to conserve more than 13,300 acres of Weyerhaeuser property located approximately nine miles northwest of Whitefish.
The conservation and recreation community has praised the easement because it protects critical fish and wildlife habitat and provides continued public access for outdoor recreation, while also securing the city of Whitefish’s water supply, 20 percent of which is drawn from Whitefish Lake.
Coupled with the nearby Haskill Basin project on land owned by F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co. — the source of the city’s remaining water supply — the Whitefish Lake Conservation Project affords the final safeguard from threats of development on land owned by the Weyerhaeuser Company.
Under the proposal, The Trust for Public Land (TPL) would acquire the entire project area from Weyerhaeuser by the end of September 2017. FWP would purchase the Lazy Creek Conservation Easement on 16 sections, or about 10,218 acres, of the property in two phases with a combination of federal and state funding.
The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation would purchase the underlying fee ownership from TPL once the conservation easement is in place. The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) would provide funding for the purchase of the remaining five sections, or roughly 3,180 acres, in the Swift Creek watershed.
In exchange for their funding, BPA would retain a perpetual conservation easement of the Swift Creek parcel with ownership of these sections being transferred to either DNRC or FWP.
The Whitefish Lake Watershed Project Environmental Assessment evaluates the proposed FWP actions of purchasing the Lazy Creek Conservation Easement and the potential for FWP to assume ownership of five sections in the Swift Creek drainage. DNRC’s potential actions are subject to their separate review and approval process.
FWP has scheduled a public hearing June 21, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. in Whitefish at Grouse Mountain Lodge (2 Fairway Drive) to provide interested organizations and private individuals an opportunity to ask questions about the proposed project and submit public comment.
The draft is out for a 30-day public review through 5 p.m. July 12. Copies of the draft EA are available at the FWP office, 490 N. Meridian Rd., Kalispell; Montana State Library, 1515 E 6th Ave., Helena; FWP State Headquarters, 1420 E 6th Ave., Helena; the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov; and available for viewing at local libraries.
Please submit comments to Nancy Ivy; Fish, Wildlife & Parks; 490 N Meridian Road, Kalispell, MT 59901; (406) 751-4579; firstname.lastname@example.org.