Montana Awarded $2 Million Grant for Haskill Basin Easement

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aids in the acquisition of a proposed conservation easement

By Beacon Staff

A proposed conservation easement that would protect land and water in Whitefish’s Haskill Basin received a $2 million boost Tuesday.

Gov. Steve Bullock announced that Montana was awarded a $2 million grant by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to aide in the acquisition of the easement.

The easement would help protect more than 3,000 acres in Haskill Basin near Whitefish. The property, owned by the F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co. and located beside Whitefish Mountain Resort on Big Mountain, is highly vulnerable to the pressures of development, proponents of the easement say, and is the source of 75 percent of the municipal water supply in Whitefish.

It is also home to grizzly bears, Canada lynx, and westslope cutthroat trout, and is popular for hiking, mountain biking, hunting, horseback riding, and Nordic skiing.

“I’m pleased that the US Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes that collaborative efforts in Montana work. We continue to find new and innovative ways to protect our wildlife and wild places, while also protecting our economy and quality of life, because we all work together,” said Bullock.

Stoltze is offering the land for $17 million. Last year, Stoltze and the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit land conservation organization, reached a deal that would keep the land permanently protected for water, wildlife and recreation uses, while still allowing Stoltze’s sustainable timber management to continue.

The Whitefish City Council will host a meeting Sept. 15 at council chambers on the financial feasibility of the deal.

City Manager Chuck Stearns said the meeting will be geared toward identifying avenues of funding, including private and philanthropic contributions, as well as public measures such as a general obligation bond that would go to voters for approval.

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