HELENA— Yesterday, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Commission unanimously approved funding for a Channel Migration Easement on the lower Yellowstone River in Richland County. The easement, which was developed by the Montana Land Reliance in cooperation with FWP and Montana Aquatic Resources Services (MARS), will use funds from Western Area Power Administration and passed through FWP to the Navratil family of Sidney. The project will benefit fisheries of the lower Yellowstone including the endangered pallid sturgeon by prohibiting armoring the river bank within the easement area and allowing the river to migrate naturally.
In addition to leading completion of the easement with FWP and MARS, Montana Land Reliance (MLR) will hold the easement in perpetuity and will provide long-term stewardship of the site. MLR works to conserve agricultural lands and holds over 850 easements protecting over 950,000 acres of private land in Montana.
Kendall Van Dyk, Eastern Manager for MLR, noted that “…what ultimately won the day was the incredible conservation value, indisputable evidence that the easement poses no additional threat to downstream landowners, and most of all, affirms private property rights. We’re thrilled to assist in helping the Navratils realize their goals for the property, just like every landowner we’ve worked with across the state.”
Montana Aquatic Resources Services, a non-profit Montana-based conservation group, has identified a number of key properties as part of the Yellowstone River Channel Migration Easement (CME) program. CMEs are a new option to conserve fish and wildlife habitat and healthy functioning of the Yellowstone River and its floodplain. Tom Hinz, Director of Program Development at MARS, says the Navratil project is the first of its kind in Montana which is attracting interest from landowners in other Montana valleys and in other western states. Hinz said, “This is a permanent and lasting legacy for the Navratil family. The family has over 135 years of history in the Sidney area and is committed to conservation of the sturgeon and other wildlife of their area. They are truly pioneers in this new approach to conservation.”
Also assisting in the project was XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, who maintains the oil and gas lease on the property. “XTO partnered with us and voluntarily waived their surface rights on the easement. Their participation literally made this possible,” Van Dyk added.