Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wants to purchase a 4,400-acre conservation easement in Fercus County, Montana to benefit bighorn sheep by improving habitat defragmentation and allow for better public access to the area. If approved, the “Whiskey Ridge Conservation Easement” would connect 15,400 acres of public land that include the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, the Great Falls Tribune reports.
The easement is currently owned by local cattle rancher Dave Bergum and it’s not yet public knowledge how much it would cost to purchase the land. However, per Montana law, landowners are compensated if they adopt conservation and public access covenants. And, once the easement is in place, while the property owner does retain rights to use the acreage for “private agriculture operations,” they are “prohibited from subdividing or further developing their land for a variety of commercial enterprises,” according to the Great Falls Tribune.
A public scoping notice for the Whiskey Ridge Conservation Easement proposal stated that, “[t]he largest current impact to this area is sod-busting. Increased sod-busting is the number one future threat. Livestock grazing is a major land use in the area and proper management practices are critical to maintaining the area’s habitat values."
Sod-busting is a term used to describe erosion-prone grasslands that are used for cropland.
“The primary objectives of this proposed conservation easement are to provide perpetual conservation and enhancement of high-quality native habitats, maintain traditional land uses and provide public recreational opportunity,” stated the public notice.
The public comment period will be open through Oct. 24. If you want to weigh in on the Whiskey Ridge Conservation Easement proposal, email firstname.lastname@example.org Attn: Whiskey Ridge Conservation Easement Proposal.