Putting the "Public" Back In "Public Trust"

"FWP’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are managed with wildlife
and wildlife habitat conservation as the foremost concern.
WMAs protect important wildlife habitat that might otherwise
disappear from the Montana landscape.

The 2015 special interest legislators put a stranglehold on FWP from purchasing land, except what was already in the pipeline under HB 403 - "Section 4.  Land access appropriations. The following money is appropriated to the department of fish, wildlife, and parks in the indicated amounts for purposes of land leasing, easement purchase, or development agreements and may not be used to purchase land except in cases where the department is currently negotiating such purchase:"

SB 230 was also enacted which states, "Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is required to conduct public scoping for certain land acquisition projects. The new public scoping language in MCA 87-1-218 reads as follows: (4) For all land acquisitions of 640 acres or more proposed pursuant to 87-1-209, the department shall: (a) conduct a public scoping process to identify issues and concerns as the initial phase of an environmental review pursuant to Title 75, chapter 1, part 2; (b) provide the public with sufficient notice of the proposed acquisition and an opportunity to provide input on reasonable alternatives, mitigation alternatives, mitigation measures, issues, and potential impacts to be addressed in the environmental review; and (c) respond to comments received during the public scoping process as part of the environmental review document. "

So heres where this is a perfect example of how mucked up this legislative stranglehold is.
Right now the DNRC has acreage within 3 of our Wildlife Management Areas. They are putting all the parcels they hold within those 3 WMA's up for scoping process for sale (PDF). But, DNRC cant outright sell the land to FWP because the law requires that they put it up for public auction - 77-2-321, "Sales to be at public auction. All sales of state lands shall be only at public auction held at the county courthouse of the county in which the lands are located. In case no suitable room can be found in such courthouse at the time for holding the sale, then the sale may be transferred to a more convenient place within a reasonable distance of such courthouse by public announcement made at the courthouse at the time fixed for beginning the sale. "

Because of SB 230, this has to undergo a scoping process now.

The DNRC has never sold lands in a WMA before, lands are being bundled in an all or nothing package, per WMA. There is only seasonal access through each WMA, which helps in this case as far as curtailing others that might want to bid against FWP. I called FWP lands division to see if this was in the "Pipeline" and thankfully it is. But can you imagine if it had not been? To present, FWP has been leasing this DNRC land. For example, the Sun River parcels have been about $9000 at grazing lease price, but that is now going to be at regular leased land prices, making the lease closer to $36,000. So we need to purchase these parcels to consolidate our WMA public land holdings, allowing FWP to own and manage all properties within WMA boundaries.

There are - please see maps in the
scoping process for sale (PDF)
639.48 acres in the Blackleaf WMA, Teton County;
8,208.78 acres in the Sun River WMA, Lewis & Clark County;
640 acres in the Beartooth WMA, Cascade County

The DNRC is in the scoping phase of the project.
The Montana DNRC invites written comments and suggestions concerning this proposal. Please respond by June 15, 2015 to:
Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
Attn: Hoyt Richards
8001 N Montana Ave
Helena MT 59602

Thanks to Jack Jones from Butte on the DNRC scoping process heads up.

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu


Wildlife &


Bozeman, MT

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