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Proposed Sweathouse Creek conservation easement out for public review

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Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public review through Nov. 4 of its proposal to purchase and manage a conservation easement on approximately 540 acres of land on the privately owned Hackett Ranch, west of Victor.

The proposed Sweathouse Creek conservation easement would protect important wildlife and fish habitat, preserve unique open space and working ranchlands, and provide public access for a variety of recreational purposes.

The area includes key winter range for elk and deer as well as an important spring calving area for elk. The easement would also include portions of Sweathouse and Gash Creeks and their associated native fish and other streamside and aquatic resources. The area has a variety of habitat for many game and nongame wildlife species.

The easement would protect the area from future development and ensure that the property would be managed as a working ranch landscape that is compatible with the area’s fish and wildlife resources.

The ranch already participates in FWP’s hunter access Block Management program and allows some public access for other types of recreation. The proposed easement would further expand access for hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking and wildlife watching.

The easement would also ensure continued access to the Sweathouse Falls Trail in the Bitterroot National Forest and provide an additional access point to the National Forest road system.

The project is proposed to be funded by Pittman-Robertson Act funds, FWP’s Habitat Montana Fund, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association, landowner donated value, and potentially through the Ravalli County Open Lands Bond.

FWP will hold a public hearing in Stevensville on Monday, Oct. 24, at 5:30 p.m. at the North Valley Public Library to discuss the proposal, answer questions, and take public comment. To review the draft EA and comment online, go to FWP’s website, fwp.mt.gov, under “News and Public Notices.” Or request information and comment by mail to: Region 2 FWP, Attn: Torrey Ritter; 3201 Spurgin Rd., Missoula 59804; by phoning 406-542-5551; or by emailing torrey.ritter@mt.gov. Comments must be received by Friday, Nov. 4.

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission has the final decision-making authority for FWP conservation easement proposals and is tentatively set to consider the proposal at its meeting in February 2023.

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