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Restoration Plan For Duchman Wetlands Open For Public Comment

Overview of the Dutchman Wetlands project area near Anaconda, MT
Overview of the Dutchman Wetlands project area near Anaconda, MT

A restoration plan for the Upper Clark Fork Basin's largest wetland is now up for public review.

The Atlantic Richfield Company's draft wetland restoration plan is designed to address wetland loss related to mining and smelting contamination in the Clark Fork River Basin.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the plan aims to protect and enhance the Dutchman wetlands near the Anaconda airport.

"Many of the tailings that were placed in the Opportunity Ponds tailings impoundment were actually placed on wetlands. So we lost wetlands and wetlands are very important habitat for migratory birds," says FWS toxicologist Karen Nelson.

Nelson says a research project she joined revealed not only low blood-lead-levels in migratory birds, but an area teeming with wildlife.

"By being out on the wetlands for part of the summer we got to see moose cow/calf pairs, we saw elk herds, sandhill cranes were nesting in the area and lots of grassland birds. So, it is a pretty neat wetland and after spending a month out there, I can say it's going to be a special place for people to visit."

That's because the public will have access to the 3,000 acre Dutchman wetland. Nelson says the plan calls for it to be protected in perpetuity.

"There is a deed restriction that goes along with the land," Nelson says. "The Atlantic Richfield Company will continue to own the property, but by placing a deed restriction on it, if for some reason in the future it's ever transferred to a different owner, the wetlands have to remain protected in perpetuity."

The Public Comment period for the draft Wetland Restoration Plan closes June 11th.

O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at edward.obrien@umt.edu.
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