A public comment period is underway for a request to tap the Lewis and Clark County Open Lands Program for $260,000 toward the purchase of 729 acres owned by Stimson Lumber Co.
The Specimen Creek project application is being made by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Funding for the $550,000 purchase price is to include $240,000 from the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust.
The Elk Foundation would pay $25,000 for an appraisal and other related evaluation of the property as well as $35,000 toward the purchase. A $15,000 grant proposal was submitted to the Cinnabar Foundation, according to information provided to the county commission.
If the project moves ahead, the land would be transferred to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The commission is slated to consider the proposal on June 14, after the 30-day public comment period ends.
While there are no water rights involved in the purchase of the land, the mineral rights have been severed from the property and would not be part of the transaction, the funding application noted.
The land is currently managed for timber production and Stimson Lumber Co. estimates it holds 3.7 million board feet. A plan for future timber harvest exists for the property although the last time it was logged was in 2007-2008.
A citizens advisory committee for the county’s Open Lands Program supported the proposal.
The land is located about 2 ½ miles south of Flesher Pass in the Canyon Creek drainage and contains portions of three creeks: Canyon, Specimen and Weino creeks, according to the county staff report. State Highway 279 passes through the property.
The creeks contain brown trout, eastern brook trout and rainbow trout, the application stated while noting the creeks are also historic westslope cutthroat trout habitat.
This landscape also provides either year-long or seasonal wildlife habitat for species that include deer, elk, bear, forest carnivores, raptors, upland game birds and endemic and neo-tropical migratory birds.
The property is also within the Continental Divide wildlife movement corridor which, the application stated, is a priority area for conservation of species such as Canada lynx and grizzly bear, which are a listed threatened species, and wolverine.
Canada lynx, grizzly bear and wolverine are said by the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to be within the Specimen Creek project area.
If the purchase is completed, it will improve access to about 4,400 acres of national forest lands. The property is also adjacent to the 2,210 acre Canyon Creek Wildlife Management Area.