Montana delegation seeks support for conservation easement

by Assoicated Press

BILLINGS, MONT. – Montana’s congressional delegation is asking U.S. Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke to support a conservation easement on 22,275-acres of private land near the Kootenai National Forest.

Members of the delegation said Wednesday that approval of the Kootenai Forestland Project in northwest Montana would sustain timber industry jobs and protect hunting, fishing and hiking access. It also would block residential development.

U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte asked Tooke to make the project a 2019 funding priority.

Daines and Gianforte are Republicans. Tester is a Democrat.

Tester spokeswoman Marnee Banks said $6 million in federal money requested for the easement represents 75 percent of the cost.

The remaining 25 percent would come as a contribution in the form of donated land from Portland, Oregon-based Stimson Lumber.