Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Montana that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Conservation of the Crown of the Continent and upgrades to the Fort Missoula Regional Park are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Brian Schweitzer and the state of Montana, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Montana and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Montana highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Crown of the Continent
From the North Fork of the Flathead, through the Swan Valley and Blackfoot Valley over to the Rocky Mountain Front, the proposed Crown of the Continent Conservation Area possesses largely intact ecosystems and a strong cultural identity. Public-private partnerships are making significant progress in preserving one of the premier mountain ecoregions in the world. Approximately 40 percent of the area is protected public land, with the remainder in private ownership. Project areas with mosaics of private and public ownership are under the greatest threat from fragmentation and are in most need of conservation protection. Strategic use of conservation easements can link together existing protected areas to preserve wildlife corridors and significant habitat while protecting and preserving the ranching culture that has fostered responsible stewardship of this incredible ecosystem for generations.
Fort Missoula Regional Park
The Fort Missoula Regional Park plan will preserve open views, provide the community with facilities for outdoor sporting events, improve access to public transportation, improve access to a cultural-heritage center, and install interpretive signage on an expanded 246-acre park plot. Three miles of trails, a 26-acre natural area, fishing ponds, connectivity to regional attractions, and access to the Bitterroot River will all attract tourists to the area and bolster the local economy. The park's current 60-acre plot is an important asset to local schools, which use the fields for recreation and team practice.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Montana, for example, potential actions the Department could provide financial and technical assistance for the expansion of the park, construction of a cultural-heritage center, and improvements to public access on the Bitterroot River.
In the Crown of the Continent, the department could support the acquisition of conservation easements from willing sellers in the Swan Valley, Blackfoot River Valley, and Rocky Mountain Front, in cooperation with partners.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus – including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.