Regional land agencies present updates, coordinate efforts

The Madison County Commissioners met with representatives from various regional land and resource management agencies at a the Alder Fire Hall on Thursday, Jan. 31 to report on current and ongoing projects running through their respective offices.

As those in attendance introduced themselves, Commissioner Dave Schulz explained the purpose of coordination meetings is to help facilitate the sharing of useful information in an interactive and informative setting.

“The value of that is how it might reflect, benefit, alter or be a means to anybody else at the table,” Schulz said.

Ennis National Fish Hatchery biologist Ron Hopper reported that they are currently spawning four of their six strains of rainbow trout that will produce approximately 23 million eggs that will be sent out all over the country. They are also producing sterile triploid eggs to be sent to Arizona.

Tim Egan, a Department of Natural Resources and Conservation unit manager out of Dillon, reported a recent sale facilitated by the Bureau of Land Management of approximately half a million board feet of timber from the Monkey Gulch Area near California Creek. Egan also reported on March 15 -17 there will be firefighter training hosted in Twin Bridges, and he said there may be an opportunity for Type 3 Incident Management training to be scheduled at a later date.

“With the two big fires that we had last summer, there was quite a bit more interest in doing that,” said Egan.

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 3 Warden Captain Sam Sheppard reported that the current wolf season for hunting and trapping is scheduled to continue through the end of February. He also said there have been a minimal number of game damage hunts in the Madison district this winter.

“All the work we’ve done over the last several years with the Madison Valley working groups of sportsmen and landowners seems to be working with changing behavior of elk spending too much time down on the flats,” said Sheppard.

He also reported that FWP Director Jeff Hagener was recently appointed by Governor Steve Bullock, having previously served as director from 2001-2008.

Madison County Sanitarian and Solid Waste Manager Wayne Urbonas reported that one of the many duties his office is responsible for is permitting for on site wastewater systems. This includes working with the county planning department to look at the planning aspects of setbacks and working with landowners to make sure systems are installed to prevent degradation of both surface and ground water.

“Basically we’re looking at watershed protection and wellhead protection at the same time,” Urbonas said.

Natural Resources Conservation Services district conservationist Trisha Cracroft from Sheridan said her office is preparing for the upcoming field season, where they will be conducting large scale land assessments, doing range inventory and water monitoring projects and continuing to support other soil health projects in the area.

Kevin Suzuki from the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service office in Ennis reported that there is an ongoing timber harvest project up South Meadow Creek, and soon there will be a scope of work for a project to remove dead and dying trees that present a roadside hazard from units in North and South Meadow Creek.

Suzuki also reported the completion of the Noble Dam project in the Noble Fork Drainage of the Tobacco Root Mountains. The dam was damaged by heavy runoff in spring 2011 and a secondary, auxiliary spillway was installed to prevent future damage from heavy ice. He also said he recently met with a collaborative group of local hunters, landowners, ranchers and concerned organizations about the potential for a project that would benefit the forest landscape in the Greenhorn area of the Gravelly Range, possibly in coordination with the Bureau of Land Management.

Supervisory natural resource specialist Pat Fosse with the Dillon BLM office reported the south Tobacco Roots Phase One timber sale to RY Timber, a project that harvested approximately 1100 acres of timber with optional units from six different drainages in the area, including South Meadow Creek, East Granite Creek, Mill Creek, California Creek and the Noble Fork of Wisconsin Creek.

Fosse also reported the latest update on the proposed long term holding facility for wild horses near Ennis, where five different landowners have filed appeals against the project. The BLM submitted their response to the Department of the Interior Board of Land Appeals and there is currently a stay in place. If the stay is approved the BLM will not bring in horses, and Fosse said the National Wild Horse and Burrow Program may decide whether or not to move the animals depending on the what happens with the appeals. Fosse said it can take Department of the Interior Board of Land Appeals anywhere from several months to a couple years to make a decision.

“If the stay is denied, then the horses will come in,” said Fosse. “That’s how it works with BLM until the final ruling is decided.”

Madison Conservation District watershed coordinator Sunni-Heikes Knapton reported the district will host the second of a three-part soil health workshop focusing on creating a balanced system to benefit livestock and land health on Feb. 14. The district will also continue the Madison Stream Team water monitoring project, a partnership with the Department of Environmental Quality. Last year the project assessed the level of metals and nutrients in the water, and this year they will focus on sediment and temperature levels.

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