(1) The commission directs the department to complete a comprehensive statewide habitat plan and to execute that plan within the following parameters:
(a) The department will identify specific staff responsible for implementation of Habitat Montana and establish procedures for accomplishing program goals.
(b) The department will develop draft criteria for identifying important habitats that are seriously threatened. The commission will adopt these criteria through a process that includes public review and comment.
(c) Utilizing the natural heritage database and information from other government agencies and cooperators, the department will identify habitat protection priorities within each eco-region. This analysis will recognize the contribution of habitat protected by other agencies and organizations. Regional habitat priorities will then be compiled into a consolidated statewide plan.
(d) The department will develop uniform guidelines for the preparation of site-specific management plans. These criteria will be applicable to management of lands in which the department acquires an interest and to cooperative habitat projects located on lands in other ownership.
(e) Prior to acquiring any interest in land for the primary purpose of securing wildlife habitat, the department will comply with the requirements of 87-1-241, MCA, by conducting an environmental assessment analyzing:
(i) the wildlife populations and use currently associated with the property;
(ii) the potential value of the land for protection, preservation, and propagation of wildlife;
(iii) management goals proposed for the land and wildlife populations and, where feasible, any additional uses of the land such as livestock grazing or timber harvest;
(iv) any potential impacts to adjacent private land resulting from proposed management goals and plans to address such impacts;
(v) any significant potential social and economic impacts to affected local governments and the state, including but not limited to impacts on:
(A) tax revenue available for the operation of taxing jurisdictions within the county;
(B) services required to be provided by local governments;
(C) employment opportunities within the counties;
(D) local schools; and
(E) private businesses supplying goods and services to the community.
(vi) a land maintenance program to control weeds and maintain roads and fences; and
(vii) any other matter considered necessary or appropriate by the commission.
(f) The department will develop monitoring and evaluation systems to track program success as well as the public's changing desires.
(g) It is preferable to acquire interests in habitat through conservation easement or lease. However, the legislature has acknowledged that the willing seller will determine the manner by which such interest is obtained and thus has provided for acquisition by fee title as well. The most effective use of capital and operational funds must be determined on a case by case basis. The commission encourages the department to utilize other methods such as land exchanges, conservation buyers and easement exchanges to meet the habitat Montana program objectives.
(h) The department will use certified appraisals or other appropriate analysis performed by department staff to determine the value of land or interest in land to be acquired.
(i) Funds for wildlife habitat acquisition shall be invested in habitat in a timely manner, as accrued.
(j) In some cases the mission of habitat Montana may be most efficiently accomplished through actions of non-profit organizations, landowners, other government agencies, or through partnerships with such entities. To gain the greatest value from partnership opportunities, the department will establish procedures for working cooperatively and non-competitively with them.
(k) The department will establish procedures to account for habitat Montana income and expenditures through the state accounting, budget, human resource system (SABHRS) . In addition to project expenditures for which accounting reports are currently available, the department will account for administrative costs associated with implementation of this policy.
(l) The commission directs the department to emphasize continuing communication with the legislature, state land board and the public to maintain awareness of, and support for, habitat Montana.
(m) The commission expects to adopt a comprehensive statewide habitat plan, incorporating each of the above elements, prior to October, 1994. The review process for this draft plan will include a public comment period of at least 60 days in length. (History: 87-1-241, MCA; IMP , 87-1-241, 87-1-242, MCA; NEW , 1994 MAR p. 3095, Eff. 12/9/94.)