|October 24, 2013
CSKT Tribal Council clarifies Otter Island Fisheries conservation area exchange with MFWP
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks recently published numerous ads in local newspapers soliciting comment regarding the release of an Environmental Assessment they are conducting to accept a land “donation” from CSKT. The Tribal Council would like to clarify for the tribal membership that the conveyance of the 147-acre Otter Island Fisheries Conservation Area (OICA) is a land exchange, not a donation.
Both MFWP and CSKT currently have funds available from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) for the perpetual protection of fisheries habitat. Both agencies, however, have separate BPA budget allocations from which they withdraw funds to purchase property or conservation easements.
In 2012 the Tribes proposed to use BPA’s Hungry Horse Dam mitigation funds for the acquisition and protection of a 400-acre parcel along Woodward Creek in the Swan River drainage. Woodward Creek is an extremely important bull trout spawning stream for the Swan River drainage. At the time of this acquisition, the Tribes did not have enough of their BPA spending authority to purchase the property. Due to its importance to bull trout, consolidation for management purposes, and future flexibility in potential land exchanges, the Tribal Council supported a creative solution. The CSKT approached MFWP to request assistance in acquiring the Woodward Creek parcel by utilizing BPA dollars that MFWP had available. Title to the entire property was vested in the Tribes’ ownership and a BPA conservation easement was placed on the property.
In exchange for the investment of MFWP’s BPA dollars in the Woodward Creek parcel, the Tribal Council agreed to exchange, what’s now known as the Otter Island Fisheries Conservation Area (OICA), to MFWP. OICA lies immediately adjacent to other property that MFWP maintains and manages. Purchase of the Woodward Creek parcel occurred in September of 2012. The resolution approving purchase of the Woodward Creek parcel references the anticipated OICA exchange, but references it by previous landowner name (Lincoln). Both the Woodward Creek and OICA properties will retain BPA conservation easements on them which require both agencies to manage them perpetually for fish and wildlife benefits.