Proposed Nevada Lake WMA expansion

Wildlife corridor connecting the Bob Marshall/Scapegoat Wilderness Areas to the north and the Nevada/Ogden and Divide Roadless area to the near north of the proposed Clear Creek addition, with the Garnet Mountain Range and the BLM Hoodoo Mountain Wilderness Study Area.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Three wildlife areas in western Montana got additions after the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission met Thursday.

The Fish Creek Wildlife Management Area south of Alberton got a 320-acre expansion when a landowner along the west fork of Fish Creek offered to sell his property, which was completely surrounded by the public land. It includes 2.5 miles of spawning stream important to bull and cutthroat trout, 72 acres of riparian and wetland habitat and connections for wildlife to reach winter range. The cost was $1.4 million, with federal Pittman-Robertson Act grants covering 75 percent of the cost and money from Habitat Montana paying the remaining quarter.

FWP will contribute payments equal to the annual private property taxes for ranch or timber land in Mineral County, Commission Chairman Dan Vermillion said. Last year, the 34,573-acre Fish Creek Wildlife Management Area received about 3,000 big-game hunter-days and 4,000 angler-days. The proposal received 32 public comments, of which 28 were in support of the purchase.

Near Kalispell, the North Shore Wildlife Management Area received another 76.6 acres from a private seller. The property expands wetlands used by migrating waterfowl along the 189-acre wildlife area and the adjacent 160-acre North Shore State Park. It cost $489,000 after the owner discounted the price by 25 percent. Money for the purchase comes from federal Pittman-Robinson Wildlife Restoration Act funds. Thirteen of the 14 public comments received supported the acquisition.

The third project involved adding 760 acres of Clear Creek timber land to the 739-acre Nevada Lake Wildlife Management Area between Helmville and Avon. The property was acquired by the Nature Conservancy from Plum Creek Timber Co. as part of the Blackfoot Community Project. FWP would pay $562,500 using a grant from the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program and a 25 percent price donation from The Nature Conservancy.

The land holds winter range for deer and elk, as well as a travel corridor for grizzly bears moving between the southern Rocky Mountain Front and the Garnet Mountain Range. It abuts the Dalton Mountain conservation easement, which protects about 4,900 acres of wildlife habitat, as well as large swaths of U.S. Forest Service land. Of the 21 public comments received, 19 were in support of the purchase.

“This is a great opportunity to achieve more and better public access,” Commissioner Matthew Tourtlotte said. “I applaud the department for putting this together, and hope the Legislature takes note of the overwhelming public support.”

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Natural Resources & Environment Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter for The Missoulian.