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Park Board turns down offer for study on Beaver Creek Park


October 8, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Water flows over a beaver dam in Beaver Creek Park Thursday. The Hill County Park Board turned down an offer for a consulting group to do a free study of the park, including the beavers there.

The Hill County Park Board voted down Monday at its September meeting a local consultant's proposal to partner with the Hill County Park Board at no charge to help the board gather more data and resources to make decisions for a long-term management plan for the park.

After a lengthy discussion throughout the meeting of a Havre Daily News article published Friday about opposing views on trapping beavers in Beaver Creek Park, the board also told a board member and a community member that if they wanted to bring additional information to the board about the issue of beaver trapping, they would need to set up meetings outside of board meetings to prevent using too much time of the regular board meetings.

Norsman Consulting Group Managing Partner Todd Hanson provided the park board with his proposal to provide pro bono professional services to conduct a study on a Beaver Creek Park natural resource management plan.

Park Board member Renelle Braaten made the motion to accept Hanson's proposal and Hill County Commissioner Diane McLean seconded it.

They were the only board members to vote to accept the proposal. It was voted down with Hill County Commissioners Mark Peterson and Mike Wendland, board Chair Steve Mariani, vice chair Larry Kinsella and board members Tony Reum and June Grabosky voting against it.

Board member Ursula Brese had an excused absence.

The proposal came amidst some controversy whether trapping should be used to control beavers on Beaver Creek Park.

Braaten is an opponent of trapping. During recent meetings covering the issue, the other board members have not taken an official stance on the issue.

Before the vote, Hanson gave details of his proposal.

"The work we are prepared to do as professional consultants at no charge to the board or the county taxpayer, and to that end we tend to with four bullet points," Hanson said, listing the points:

• To work collaboratively with the board of directors and park staff to identify all possible sources of technical support or possible funding from public and private agencies, foundations or related organizational sources, that could be used to support the effort to complete the research, and comprehensive watershed/natural resource management plan for Beaver Creek Park

• To work collaboratively with the board of directors and park staff to select opportunities, programs, agencies, funding and technical support which would best fit the profile of the park and needs of a watershed/natural resource management plan for Beaver Creek Park

• To work collaboratively with the board of directors and park staff to draft the necessary proposals, applications or related program material on behalf of the park board and coordinate the submission of private agencies, foundations or related organizations

• To work collaboratively with the board of directors and park staff to review the results of the research along with the analysis of the findings, which may become the scientific basis for drafting a comprehensive watershed/natural resource management plan for Beaver Creek Park, and to also facilitate the participation of local, trained professionals in making scientific based recommendations to the board of directors, if it were to pursue the development of a comprehensive watershed/natural resource management plan for Beaver Creek Park.

"We stand ready, as you may be aware of, as we've shared in the past. As a gesture of good faith we have done some preliminary research," Hanson said. "We have identified of likely sources of technical support some those are university base. Others are public or private foundation, others are agency based like (Environmental Protection Agency) and other (United States Department of Agriculture) agencies and other federal based programs whether technical support or financial resources."  

He added that he and his firm are prepared to go to work, get this information gathered in the first phase and bring it to the board for their review. Upon the review the board may find opportunities to pursue organizations with different.

Hanson said the first step would be to find out what is on the landscape of Beaver Creek Park that would fit the needs of the board and the community for the possibility of review under the plan.

"All this proposal is about is helping this board gather up all the information that is out there, not obligating you to do anything, but just look at the information and if you want to discard it then discard it all," Hanson said. "Taking off my consultant hat and putting on my taxpayer hat, I can't imagine a board like this would not want to have as much valuable information that it can get its hands-on to manage its very complicated asset which is Beaver Creek Park."

He added that doing this proposal is a way for him to give back.

"One of the things I am really proud of about our park is that we don't need that outside assistance for a lot of things that we do. We should not need that," community member Lou Hagener said. 

Hagener added that with the opportunity of getting some help in developing that base information he said they as the community and the board need a longer range plan for development with the park, not just a year to year plan. 

Mariani said he wasn't sure if Hanson's proposal was the way to go.

"I think the park is in a good place partly because of hard work, and that's how you build a business, with hard work. We've got hard work, but we've got a problem, we have some problems, we got to fix our problem," Mariani said. "In my opinion, I just don't think we need another study."

Mariani told Hanson it was a good idea, but free money scares him.

During the public comment section, Fran Buell said she wants to bring a certified trapper for the public and the board to hear of an alternative way to manage beavers on the park.

Mariani told Buell and Braaten that if they want to bring more information to the board, they need to do it outside of the regular board meeting but they could set up meetings that board members could attend.

In an email to the Havre Daily News this morning, Buell said she has a couple of problems with that idea.

One is that she can't be sure board members would be willing and able to attend such a meeting, and the other is that the board has allowed Braaten to bring two representatives from animal rights advocates groups, Dave Pauli of the Humane Society of the United States, and Christopher Justice of Footloose Montana/Trap Free Montana Public Lands to speak at Board meetings where members and the public were present. She said she believes she and fellow trappers also should be put on the agenda.

Superintendent Chad Edgar said Beaver Creek Park usage has been significantly slow this month, but there was a significant amount of traffic in September.

Edgar added that for this grazing season, a total of 1,399 cattle are on the park, and the park almost made it through the month of September with no cattle being hit, but he had five cattle hit in five days.

"When the highway is wet, it's dark and hard to see them. I just encourage to spread the word that there are times when it is dangerous out there," he said. "The dark zones is what I call them, the dark zones are really hard to see them."

The next park board meeting is Monday, Nov. 4, at the Timmons Room in the Hill County Courthouse. Deadline to put items on the agenda for the next meeting is noon, Oct. 25.


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