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To protect Westslope cutthroat trout, the Bureau of Land Management designated the Collar Gulch area of the Judith Mountains, near Lewistown, as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. This protective designation is aimed at conserving the fishery and preventing human activities that could put this threatened fish species at risk. Because of interference from the U.S. Department of Interior in Washington, D. C., the BLM is now proposing to eliminate this ACEC, as part of the Lewistown management plan revision.

Collar Gulch Creek contains the eastern-most population of genetically pure Westslope cutthroat trout, a BLM sensitive species and state species of special concern. The ACEC also includes the Tate-Poetter Cave, which is occupied by a threatened species of bat.

We now know through a Freedom of Information Act request, that rather than eliminating the ACEC, local Lewistown BLM staff proposed to slightly expand the acreage of the ACEC, to better protect these sensitive species.

The decision to eliminate this ACEC, and others across the West, was made by D.C. political appointees who know little, if anything, about the issues in central Montana, and probably don't care. The BLM state director needs to have the gumption to stand up for those of us who live here and care about our public lands.

Michael Chapman

Lewistown

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