October 22, 2020
U.S. Forest Service
USFS Region 1
Cc: Carolyn Upton
Lolo National Forest
26 Fort Missoula Road
Missoula, MT 59804
Re: LWCF Fiscal Year 2022 Missoula Valley Frontcountry Access Project
The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers submits this comment in support of the Missoula Front Country Access Project. The Montana Chapter’s roughly 3,000 dues-paying members have a keen interest in the permanent protection of Montana lands (more than 18,345 acres here), as our organization is dedicated to protecting the value that wild lands, wildlife and wild fish bring to our great state. We strive to protect large parcels of backcountry fish and wildlife habitat, as well as the opportunity for increased hunting and fishing access.
Acquisitions of new fee title lands by both the United States Forest Service and the Trust for Public Land provide an invaluable resource to Montanans, and in this case, particularly those in Missoula county. As USFS is aware, population growth in Missoula county has been dramatic over the last decade. Enlargement and development of public access and public land holdings will only serve to assist with distribution of impacts from growing public use and enhancement of the natural resource user experience.
Of particular significance with this acquisition is the close proximity to the Missoula downtown population. This front-country location means that these lands would surely face strong development pressure providing a stark opportunity cost should these lands not be acquired. Furthermore, the unique funding mechanism by the Land and Water Conservation Fund is one that BHA has long supported.
Although costs of acquiring these lands will surely be high, Montana BHA supports the collaborative nature of these types of public-private partnerships. In addition, the extremely valuable nature of these ecologically important lands and their proximate location to Missoula’s urban core, plus the improved access to current public lands adjacent to this property, makes this acquisition of great importance. This opportunity to enlarge public land ownership will not only provide greater public access to recreational lands near town but will also permanently protect the biologically rich habitat that contributes to the abundance of diversity of terrestrial and aquatic wildlife in this area.
For all of these reasons, Montana BHA offers this comment in full support of the Missoula Valley Frontcountry Access Project, as currently proposed in the Draft EA published in September 2020.
Graham Coppes, Board Member
Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers