- Associated Press - Saturday, May 16, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Montana wildlife commissioners have approved continuing negotiations for the purchase of seven properties that were underway before state lawmakers stripped Fish, Wildlife and Parks of its authority to buy land over the next budget cycle.

The bill by Rep. Dave Hagstrom, R-Billings, appropriated money for government capital projects for the next two years with the stipulation that FWP not be allowed to buy land. The provision came after calls from some lawmakers to end FWP purchasing of land, the Independent Record reported (https://bit.ly/1IDeKNz).

On Thursday, the Fish and Wildlife Commission endorsed the agency’s continuing negotiations for four fishing access sites and additions to three wildlife management areas, after FWP director Jeff Hagener said talks for those lands were taking place before the bill’s passage.

“We can make fee title acquisitions under current negotiations right now for projects in the pipeline, but if the ideal opportunity came up, we would not have the authority to do that,” said FWP director Jeff Hagener.

The department still has the authority to enter into conservation or access easements with private landowners. The bill also did not eliminate habitat acquisition programs, and money will continue to accumulate in those accounts, Hagener said.

These are the property negotiations the commission endorsed Thursday:

- A 105-acre parcel on the Missouri River in Cascade County next to the Carter Ferry Fishing Access Site.

- A 57-acre parcel southwest of Vaughn on the Sun River.

- A 15-acre parcel on the west side of Flathead Lake near Dayton that would allow closer access to Wild Horse Island State Park.

- A site on the Musselshell River 24 miles east of Roundup.

- Three parcels totaling nearly 140 acres that would be added to the North Shore Wildlife Management Area on Flathead Lake.

- Land totaling nearly 450 acres next to the Lost Creek Wildlife Management Area near Anaconda.

- A 527-acre addition to the Isaac Homestead Wildlife Management Area along the Yellowstone River.

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Information from: Independent Record, https://www.helenair.com

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