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Public comment sought on draft EAs for 2 sage grouse conservation easements


HELENA, Mont -- The Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team (MSGOT) is soliciting public comment on two separate draft Environmental Assessments regarding two proposed grants from the Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Stewardship Fund. One grant would support the Hansen Livestock Conservation Easement Proposal.  The other grant would support the Raths Livestock Conservation Easement Proposal.

HANSEN LIVESTOCK CO. EASEMENT:  The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is proposing to purchase a 13,535-acre permanent conservation easement on the Hansen Livestock Company ranch, located in Beaverhead County. The ranch is located entirely within lands classified as Core Sage Grouse Habitat; a minimum of 7 active sage-grouse leks are located on or within six miles of the ranch, with 20 leks located within 12 miles. MSGOT approved the application for the conservation easement at its Nov. 18, 2016, public meeting, contingent on TNC securing matching funds.  Matching funds were secured by Sept. 29, 2017.

TNC is requesting $952,200 from the Fund, which would be matched with $4,950,000 from the NRCS Agricultural Lands Easement Program, a donation of $647,500 from the landowner, and a $50,000 donation from TNC. The projected value of the easement is $6,600,000. 

Interested parties have until July 11, 2018, to submit comments on the Hansen Livestock Company Conservation Easement draft environmental assessment, where the proposed state action is for MSGOT to perform under the grant agreement with TNC and transfer funds from the Stewardship account so TNC can purchase the easement.  TNC would hold the easement. 

The state retains third party contingent rights to enforce the easement’s terms and will retroactively calculate credits and make them available in a compensatory mitigation marketplace in the future. MSGOT will review the final Environmental Assessment, all public comments received, and other documents pertinent to this grant proposal during a public teleconference call in late July and is expected to make a final decision on the proposal.  If approved, the easement would close by July 31, 2018.

Comments on the Hansen Livestock conservation easement draft environmental assessment may be submitted through standard mail to Carolyn Sime, Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program, Montana DNRC, PO Box 201601, Helena, MT 59620-1601 (must be postmarked mailed on or before July 11 3, 2018). Submit comments electronically and attach documents using the public comment Web tool located on the Grants Web page at https://sagegrouse.mt.gov/Grants.   Electronic comments must be submitted and received by 11:59 p.m. on July 11, 2018. 

RATHS LIVESTOCK CORP. EASEMENT:  The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) is proposing to purchase a 11,230-acre permanent conservation easement on the Raths Livestock Corporation ranch, located in Golden Valley County.  The ranch is located entirely within lands classified as Core Sage Grouse Habitat; a minimum of 11 active sage-grouse leks are located on or within four miles of the ranch, with 22 leks located within 12 miles. MLR presented the application for the easement at the May 24, 2016, MSGOT public meeting. It was selected for funding at that time.

MLR is requesting $812,500 from the Fund, which would be matched with $2,437,500 from the NRCS Agricultural Lands Easement Program, and a donation of $58,794 from the landowner. The projected value of the easement is $3,308, 794. 

Interested parties have until Aug. 3, 2018, to submit comments on the Raths Livestock Corporation Conservation Easement draft environmental assessment, where the proposed state action is for MSGOT to perform under the grant agreement with MLR and transfer funds from the Stewardship account so MLR can purchase the easement.  MLR would hold the easement. 

The state retains third party contingent rights to enforce the easement’s terms and will retroactively calculate credits and make them available in a compensatory mitigation marketplace in the future. MSGOT will review the final Environmental Assessment, all public comments received, and other documents pertinent to this grant proposal at its Sept. 14, 2018, meeting, and is expected to make a final decision on the proposal.  If approved, the easement is expected to close in the fall of 2018.

Comments on the Raths Livestock conservation easement draft environmental assessment may be submitted through standard mail to Carolyn Sime, Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program, Montana DNRC, PO Box 201601, Helena, MT 59620-1601 (must be postmarked mailed on or before Aug. 3, 2018). Submit comments electronically and attach documents using the public comment Web tool located on the Grants Web page at https://sagegrouse.mt.gov/Grants.   Electronic comments must be submitted and received by 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 3, 2018. 

To join the Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program listserve and receive notices of all MSGOT and program activities and public comment opportunities, visit www.sagegrouse.mt.gov.

The Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program works to sustain viable sage grouse populations and conserve habitat, enabling Montanans to maintain control of their lands, wildlife, and economy by avoiding a listing of the greater sage grouse under the federal Endangered Species Act.  

 

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