Seeley Meeting Feb. 21 on
Game Range land exchange


February 15, 2001
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

Game Range Ramblin's



Game Range Articles
by Mike Thompson,
FW&P wildlife biologist,
writing for the Pathfinder

 


by Mike Thompson

If your computer crashed under the weight of http://www.dnrc.state.mt.us/eis_ea.html when you clicked on the draft environmental impact statement (eis) I recommended in last week's column, I hope you won't take it out on me when I see you at Ovando or Seeley Lake next week.

Because I can't fix it.

But, if you're really interested in our proposal to bring another 3,040 acres of Plum Creek Timber Company inholdings within the Game Range into state ownership, we can help with that.

We'll bring lots of copies of the brief Executive Summary (complete with a color map), a wheelbarrow loaded with a few copies of the complete draft eis (for those of you with insomnia), and a tape recorder (for preserving your every utterance) to our meetings at the Ovando Church on February 20 (7:00 P.M.) and at the Seeley Lake Elementary School on February 21 (also at 7:00 P.M.).

The rubber is starting to meet the road on this Phase II proposal of the 50th Anniversary Project. We're going to need to know exactly where we're going very soon. This first version of the eis is our draft road map, with a few forks in the road to choose from.

Next week, we'll be pulling over and asking for directions at the meetings in Ovando and Seeley Lake.

Of course, it's always an option to turn around and go back the way we came. That's Alternative A in the draft eis. Plum Creek would continue to own 3,040 acres in the heart of the Game Range. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) would continue to own its scattered 40 to 640-acre parcels from Ovando to Frenchtown. And, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) would stand pat on the 1,740-acre portion of the old Dreyer Ranch lying north and east of Woodworth Road.

If we hang a right, we'll be heading down Alternative [Route] B, as described in the draft eis. Plum Creek would trade the 3,040 acres in the Game Range to DNRC. In exchange, DNRC would trade an equal value of its scattered parcels to Plum Creek. Then DNRC and FWP would enter into a Cooperative Management Agreement that would guide the management of forests on FWP and DNRC lands in the Game Range for the benefit of wildlife and the state school trusts.

If we hang a left, we'll be heading down Alternative [Route] C. If we go down this road, FWP would trade its 1,740 acres north of Woodworth Road (part of the old Dreyer Ranch) to DNRC. In exchange, DNRC would trade up to 1,400 acres (depending on final land appraisals) of its very best elk winter range parcels in the Game Range to FWP. Then the agencies would continue to go their own, mostly separate ways when it comes to land management in the Game Range.

What if we go straight?

Straight ahead is Alternative D, which is the way we're heading now. Plum Creek would trade the 3,040 acres in the Game Range to DNRC. In exchange, DNRC would trade an equal value of its scattered parcels to Plum Creek. Also, FWP would trade its 1,740 acres north of Woodworth Road to DNRC, and DNRC would trade up to 1,400 acres of its best winter range parcels in the Game Range to FWP. Finally, DNRC and FWP would enter into a Cooperative Management Agreement that would guide the management of forests on FWP and DNRC lands in the Game Range for the benefit of wildlife and the state school trusts.

Sound familiar? It should. Alternative D equals Alternative B plus Alternative C.

So, which way do we go? Personally, I'd vote for any route with a good cafe. That matter aside, DNRC and FWP have prepared the draft eis to identify and analyze all the pros and cons we thought were important. We had help from those of you who brought issues to our attention during the public scoping period a year ago.

It's fair to say that Alternative D would accomplish the most toward bringing all 7,800 acres of Plum Creek inholdings within the Game Range into compatible state or federal ownership, and transferring fee-title ownership to FWP of some of the best elk winter habitat on the Game Range.

There are trade-offs to consider, however, and either a right or a left turn would do at least a little bit of good for the Game Range, while offering some tricky curves of their own.

Whichever way we go, the ride is apt to get bumpy. Even turning back won't be a safe selection because it would leave the heart of the Game Range unprotected from the possibility of a future sale and development of lands currently owned by Plum Creek. And, while lands already owned by DNRC in the Game Range are unlikely to be sold, they are subject to possible development if proposals for cabin sites or other licenses are offered in the future.

So, come on out and see us next week. We'll give you a brief rundown of what we're up to, we'll answer as many questions as we can, and then we'll turn the meeting over to you so we can hear your input and ideas.

 

If you've got questions or comments you'd like to air before the meeting, just give me a call at 542-5523. I won't be in the office all the time between now and then, but enough to return your call if you leave a message.

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