Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
PO Box 9257
Missoula, MT 59807
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Attention: Vanessa Fields, Project Planner
Email: [email protected]
RE: Draft Environmental Assessment and Land Protection Plan, Lost Trail Conservation Area
The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers submits this comment in support of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s (“USFWS”) establishment of the Lost Trail Conservation Area. The Montana Chapter’s roughly 3,000 dues-paying members have a keen interest in all National Wildlife Refuge System lands, 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 fair chase hunting and fishing experiences.
Acquisitions of new Refuge System lands, such as that proposed by USWS here, provide an invaluable resource to Montanans, and particularly those in Flathead and Lincoln counties. As USFWS is aware, population growth in Flathead County has been dramatic over the last several decades. Enlargement and development of public access and USFWS 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 multi-use nature of the property. As USFWS notes in its Draft EA, the proposed Conservation Area would not just provide the opportunity for acquisition of conservation easements - providing valuable wildlife habitat and connectivity corridors - but will also provide valuable access for hunters and anglers in perpetuity. At the same time, USFWS notes that the Proposed Action will also allow sustainable forest management practices to continue. This is an important component for the local economy and will help bring about broad supports across the public spectrum. This type of compromise exemplifies what Montanans want to see from their land management agencies.
Although costs of acquiring these private easement rights 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 would surely entice further private development and habitat fragmentation. This opportunity cost makes this Proposed Action that much more beneficial to the public, as it will serve to not only provide continued public access, but also will 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 support of USFWS’ Proposed Action and Establishment of the Lost Trail Conservation Area, as currently proposed in the Draft EA published in September 2020.
Graham Coppes, Montana Chapter Conservation Leader
Molly VandeVoort, Flathead Board Member
The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers