The University of Montana is releasing its first draft management plan for natural areas, Marilyn Marler said Tuesday.

"This will be the first management plan for UM's land on Mount Sentinel and Fort Missoula," said Marler, UM natural areas specialist, in an email about the plan. "It covers grassland and forest stewardship, invasive plant management, trail maintenance, and social/safety issues that need to be addressed for both properties."

The plan for some 750 acres supports the goals of managing the lands for education, research, conservation and recreation, she said.

It's open for comment through April 1, and available online at http://cas.umt.edu/umnaturalareas/.

Marler presents the plan at the Associated Students of the University of Montana's standing Senate meeting 6 p.m. Wednesday in the University Center meeting room 330.

In the past, UM has completed plans to manage weeds, Marler said. The weeds plan needed an update, she said, so it was a good time to create a broader program for natural areas on Mount Sentinel and at Fort Missoula.

Fort Missoula is a popular place for people to walk dogs and do other activities, and the upcoming management plan for the regional park is going to have an impact on use, Marler said.

At last count a decade ago, the M trail on Mount Sentinel had 1,000 visitors a day in good weather, Marler said. (And that number doesn't include other access points on Sentinel.)

Marler said she doesn't have a hard and fast deadline for the plan's adoption, so if there's more interest, she'll hold another public meeting in April when she returns from her Fulbright visit to Vietnam.

"I'm looking forward to getting comments and incorporating them when I get back," Marler said.

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