COLUMBIA FALLS — Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) are seeking public input on purchasing more than 700 acres of Wildlife Management area near Columbia Falls.
“It checks all the boxes that we look for when we want to move forward with a project like this,” FWP spokesman Dillon Tabish told MTN News.
FWP is seeking input on whether they should purchase 772 acres of wildlife habitat known as the Bad Rock Canyon near Columbia Falls.
Tabish said purchasing the land would protect public recreation access, fish and wildlife habitat and water quality for decades to come.
“It’s just that right piece of land for wildlife, for recreational opportunities, for fish habitat, for clean water protections along the Flathead River, it really checks all those boxes,” said Tabish.
Tabish said the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company currently owns the land and approached FWP about a potential sell-off.
“When these types of opportunities present themselves where the right piece of land comes forward, we’re interested,” added Tabish.
Tabish said appraised value of the acquisition is $7.26 million, with funding coming from partnerships with the U.S. Forest Service, the Montana Habitat Program and more.
“We’ve got lots of initial public support, the Flathead Land Trust has done an amazing job of privately fundraising over $500,000,” added Tabish.
Tabish said a virtual public hearing on the proposed purchase is set for Aug. 26, with public comment running through Sept. 8.
He said FWP has until the end of 2021 to complete the purchase, otherwise the land may be sold privately and developed into high-density neighborhoods.
“Because they don’t want to just sit around, they’ve said you kind of have till the end of the year, so that’s why we’re trying to get all of this wrapped up before the end of the year because after that point it could just go out for market,” Tabish told MTN News.
More information on how to attend the Aug. 26 virtual hearing or to submit public comment on the proposed purchase can be found here.