Forest Service to Purchase, Restore Lands

By Beacon Staff

The Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. Forest Service will dedicate $40.6 million for land acquisition projects in 15 states including Montana in an effort to help safeguard clean water, recreational access and wildlife habitat and wilderness areas.

The money is made available through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, created by Congress in 1964 to provide funding to federal, state and local governments to purchase land, water and wetlands. The fund receives the majority of its money through royalty payments from offshore oil and gas revenues to mitigate the environmental impacts of those activities, the DOA said. Those funds also are augmented by additional money or in-kind services of a variety of partnerships.

“The pristine wildernesses, flowing waters and majestic vistas help define what makes this country great,” Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said in a statement.

“These projects will help ensure a long future of quality open space for those hunters and anglers, hikers, campers and other nature lovers who enjoy America’s great outdoors. The funding will also reduce administrative costs and provide us increased flexibility in how we restore lands across the country.”

Lands are purchased from sellers at fair-market value or through partial or outright donations of property, the DOA said. Landowners may also sell or donate easements on their property that restrict commercial development while keeping the land in private ownership.

Montana has two separate approved projects. They are listed below:

Legacy Completion, Lolo and Flathead National Forests: The project will enhance resource management within and adjacent to the Crown of the Continent by protecting healthy watersheds, diverse habitats for threatened and endangered species, and open space on a landscape-scale and public access to high quality recreation opportunities. This parcel is a part of the Montana Legacy project, one of the most ambitious conservation projects in modern Forest Service history and includes a 111,740 acre donation from conservation partners. $2 million

Tenderfoot Part I, Lewis and Clark National Forest: The Tenderfoot watershed in Central Montana is remarkably diverse spanning areas from 3,200 feet elevations sub-alpine mountains to grass meadows and riparian areas. The acquisition parcels will provide high quality water and fisheries habitat for west slope cutthroat trout, and habitat for elk, moose, deer and many other wildlife species. The land offers incredible scenic views and extraordinary recreation opportunities, especially for anglers and hunters. $2 million