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Tenative Deal Reached on Easement

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials have reached a tentative deal to give a long-stalled coal railroad an easement through a Miles City fish hatchery.

In exchange, the state would get a $2 million payment into a conservation fund and a $25 million insurance policy.

The proposal to grant the easement to the 80-mile Tongue River Railroad must be approved by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks commissioners.

Notice was put on the commission’s Thursday agenda, but the matter was pulled late Wednesday and delayed until an unspecified date.

The railroad company is jointly owned by Arch Coal, Inc., BNSF Railway and billionaire candy magnate Forrest Mars, Jr.

It’s been on the drawing board for decades, but is fiercely opposed by conservation groups and landowners wary of new mining in southeastern Montana’s huge coal fields.

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