Brian Schweitzer got his wish. The Montana governor today finalized the state's $15.2 million purchase of some 27,000 acres northeast of Deer Lodge from the Rock Creek Cattle Company, putting an end to weeks of debate surrounding the Spotted Dog land acquisition. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is now seeking volunteers to staff a planning committee for the Spotted Dog Wildlife Management Area, a highly coveted spread housing a sizable elk herd and numerous other species of concern.
"The 12-15 member committee will provide advice and local perspective to FWP over the next few years as FWP works to refine a management plan for the WMA," FWP's release reads. "Prospective committee members should include area landowners, hunters, anglers and others that are interested in working on a collaborative planning effort for the property."
FWP spokesperson Vivaca Crowser says several of the positions on the committee will be filled with representatives from various agencies including the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), the U.S. Forest Service and, of course, FWP. Her agency has also considered reaching out to the Powell County Planning Board as well as the Powell County commissioners to weigh their interest in having a representative on the committee. FWP will select the remaining members from the public.
Crowser adds that the purchase was completed as proposed, meaning the $15.2 million for the purchase and the additional $1.4 million for maintenance and leasing of neighboring land from the DNRC came from Natural Resource Damage Program fund acquired from the state's $130 million legal settlement with Atlantic Richfield. The funding source proved the largest point of contention during the Spotted Dog debate.
The WMA planning committee is tentatively schedule to hold its first meeting in October, according to FWP, and will meet up to ten times in the next two years to discuss and execute a management plan for the Spotted Dog. Applications for volunteer positions on the committee, which should include a paragraph stating why the applicant is interested in serving on the panel, should be directed to Crowser. She can be reached at 406-542-5518.