Agreement to Protect 9,900 Acres in MT
>DILLON, Montana, 3/15/05 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), two national land conservation groups, today announced they have reached an agreement with Roger and Carrie Peters, owners of the Dragging Y Cattle Company, to conserve 9,900 acres of prime wildlife habitat and recreational land near Dillon.
The land to be conserved consists of three different properties. The first is a 1,280-acre inholding located within the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, approximately 35 miles due west of Dillon. The property occupies a long, lush valley bottom and includes almost four miles of Selway Creek. It provides critical spring, summer and fall habitat for elk and deer and is widely regarded as having some of the best fly-fishing waters in southwest Montana. TPL and RMEF are planning to buy the property and convey it to the United States to be added to the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Money for the acquisition is being sought from Congress through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The remaining two properties are part of a working ranch. The 7,240-acre Knox Ranch is located about 20 miles south of Dillon and 7 miles west of the Blacktail State Wildlife Management Area. The property, largely surrounded by public land administered by the state of Montana and the Bureau of Land Management, provides important winter range and year-round habitat for elk and deer as well as various game bird species, including the Sage Grouse. The 1,381-acre Hilger Ranch is located along Horse Prairie Creek, approximately 12 miles east of the Clark Canyon Reservoir. The property is part of a rich, riparian bottomland ecosystem, which provides exceptional habitat for a variety of fish and game species.
TPL and RMEF will have the right to purchase conservation easements on the Knox and Hilger properties once their purchase of the Selway property is complete. The easements will allow for public hunting and will be made available to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) for consideration through its Habitat For Montana Program. The landowners sold a similar easement in 2001, allowing the state to conserve more than 14,000 acres of critical big game winter range in the Horse Prairie area and make it accessible to the sporting public, while maintaining the traditional ranching values of the region.
Kurt Alt, Region 3 Wildlife Manager for MFWP, emphasized the land’s wildlife and sportsman values. “This project is a win-win for everyone involved. Not only will it conserve a tremendous amount of important wildlife habitat, but it will also make exceptional hunting opportunities available to the sporting public. I sincerely hope that our Commission will have the opportunity to take a hard look at acquiring conservation easements on the Knox and Hilger properties if and when they are made available for purchase.”
“Acquiring the Selway property is the top land protection priority for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest”, said Forest Supervisor Tom Riley. “Putting it into public ownership will be good for wildlife, hunters, fishermen and backcountry enthusiasts alike. We are particularly thankful to our conservation partners, The Trust for Public Land and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Without their cooperation and collaboration, important projects like this one would never become a reality.”
Beaverhead County Commission Chairman Garth Haugland said, “The Selway property is a valuable and treasured resource. Its wildlife and recreational values are unsurpassed and deserve to be protected. Putting the property into public ownership would be a real win for local residents and all of us who live here in Beaverhead County. I fully support the efforts of TPL, RMEF and the Forest Service to acquire this unique property and pledge to lend my assistance and support in any way possible.”
“Our goal is to conserve land for people to improve the quality of life and to protect our natural resources for future generations”, said Alex Diekmann, TPL’s local project manager. “This is an excellent opportunity to conserve important wildlife habitat and make it available to sportsmen and the recreating public. It also demonstrates how different land agencies can leverage off each other’s work. We are extremely proud to be working with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and expect this project to lead to many more collaborative efforts between our two organizations.”
“The Selway project contains some of the most picturesque country and premier elk habitat to be found in southwest Montana”, said Bill Mytton, RMEF Montana Lands Program Manager. “This acquisition and conservation easement partnership between the landowner, TPL, and RMEF sets a precedent for conserving the wildlife and ranching traditions that keep our state economically viable, while maintaining Montana’s western flavor.”
The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization, conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in communities and to protect our natural and historic resources for future generations. Since 1972, TPL has protected?nearly?two million acres nationwide with a value of more than $3.8 billion. Projects in Montana include protection of the Taylor Fork drainage south of Big Sky, Lindbergh Lake, the Swan River Valley, Thompson and Fisher River Valleys, waterfowl habitat at the Blasdel National Wildlife Refuge and various working ranches throughout the Gallatin Valley.
Since 1984, the non-profit Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has permanently protected more than 1,000 square miles of critical elk habitat and improved another 3.5 million acres of elk country. The great majority of this land is now open to the public to hunt, fish and otherwise enjoy. In addition, the Elk Foundation has funded more than 1,000 projects to promote conservation education and North America’s hunting heritage. To help pass on an elk country legacy for future generations, visit www.elkfoundation.org or call 800-CALL ELK.