Big Arm easement plan a good collaborative effort

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The Big Arm unit of Flathead Lake State Park is a well-used and well-loved park with some of the best views and amenities of any state park in Montana. We’re glad to see two state agencies and the Montana Legislature collaborating on a proposed easement that will preserve Big Arm as a state park in perpetuity.

The plan to purchase a permanent recreation easement for Big Arm for an estimated $12 million cleared an important hurdle recently as the state Parks and Recreation Board unanimously supported the plan. Two other key approvals — from the Fish and Wildlife Commission and the state Land Board — are needed before it’s a done deal.

The 217-acre park is located on state school trust land overseen by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. The state Parks Division has leased the Big Arm unit for more than five decades, but that lease expires next March, leaving the possibility of the annual lease bumping up from $18,000 to $600,000, an amount Fish, Wildlife and Parks said would be cost-prohibitive.

Enter the Legislature, which passed a bill during the last session that gives Fish, Wildlife and Parks funding authority to purchase the easement from the DNRC and sets out five state and federal funding sources to cover the $12 million, which is still a ball-park estimate until the full appraisal process is completed.

Parkland in Montana is precious, especially when it’s located long the shore of our treasured Flathead Lake. The easement deal in the works shows state agencies and lawmakers can work together to do what’s best for Montanans. This is a clear example of the old adage, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

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