Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Citing a mutual interest in preserving wildlife habitat and the environment, Missoula County and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes plan to approve an agreement this week stating their goal to work collaboratively across a number of issues.

The county and the tribes have had a cooperative relationship over the years, but the new agreement more strongly states their intent to work together on land-use planning and development in order to preserve key wildlife corridors and scenic viewsheds.

“The only major difference is that we more specifically call out the development review piece, and the intention to cooperate on long-range planning together,” said county planner Karen Hughes. “After the legislative session is over, we plan to go back and update our comprehensive planning documents for the county, and we want to make sure we do that in a collaborative way with the tribes.”

County commissioners have already given pre-approval to the agreement and plan to discuss it this week with tribal leaders. The agreement lays out a number of mutual interests, including the preservation of key wildlife corridors.

The agreement notes that “the Evaro Area is one of the most critical wildlife corridors in western Montana.” It adds that it's “incumbent upon our respective governments to plan for and regulate development to protect this critical wildlife corridor and the spectacular scenery and beauty of the Evaro and Jocko valleys.”

Wildlife in the Evaro area. (William Munoz/Missoula Current)
Wildlife in the Evaro area. (William Munoz/Missoula Current)

Hughes said the new agreement advances the goals of the two governments to work together on such issues as the environment, habitat, scenery and stewardship.

“The tribes fully intend to develop a planning program, both a long-term range plan and a regulatory program,” said Hughes. “They haven't to this point. But this agreement more or less provides that service and we'll consult with them when we do not only our development review but also our long-range planning.”