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More than a thousand acres of wildlife winter range near Philipsburg could be protected for hunting under a proposed conservation easement with the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department.

Five Valleys Land Trust has brokered a deal with the Buxbaum-Boulder Creek Ranch to conserve the native grasslands, forested draws, wetlands and aspen stands that make the area hospitable for both big game and non-game wildlife. The easement would cover 1,193 acres between Drummond and Philipsburg, just northeast of Maxville.

“It’s a really interesting piece of property,” FWP Region 2 Supervisor Randy Arnold said. “It provides access to Forest Service and other public land.”

Funding for the access easement would come from the Montana Department of Justice Natural Resource Damage Program and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. No FWP funds would be involved in acquiring the proposed conservation easement. The Natural Resource Damage Program oversees the settlement funds that pay for remediation and restoration of Upper Clark Fork River country that was damaged by toxic mine waste in the early 20th century.

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Five Valleys Land Trust would purchase the conservation easement with $737,000 in grants from the restoration funds, and then assign access easements to FWP for public hunting. Arnold said the ranch owners intend to continue grazing cattle and raising crops, but are working out a block management access schedule that best accommodates hunter interest in the region.

FWP will hold a public hearing in Anaconda on at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 8 in the Drummond Community Center (54 E. Broad St.) to answer questions and take public comment.

To review the draft EA and to comment, go to FWP’s website, fwp.mt.gov, under “News,” then “Recent Public Notices.” Or, request information and comment by contacting Region 2 FWP, 3201 Spurgin Road, Missoula 59804; by phoning 406-542-5540; or by emailing shrose@mt.gov. Comments must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019.

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