Agreement to Purchase Taylor Fork Land (MT)

BIG SKY, MONTANA, 6/26/01 – The Trust for Public Land announced today that it has reached an agreement to purchase and protect for the public almost 3,250 acres in the Taylor Fork drainage.

“This is great news,” Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said. “We’ve been working for years to put aside this important land in the Taylor Fork area because it’s so important to our hunting, fishing and outdoor heritage. I’m glad to say that we’ll be able to pass this special place on to our kids and grandchildren.”

Sen. Conrad Burns, (R-Mont.), praised the agreement. “This is a great project which is broadly supported by many different interest groups including Trout Unlimited, Orion The Hunters Institute and a broad coalition of local businesses and residents. Preserving this unique part of Montana will be good for wildlife as well as the public,” Burns said. “As the Ranking Member on the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the decisions regarding funding for these projects, I will work to secure the necessary funding this year for this important priority.”

The “checkerboard” land that is being offered for sale consists of three full square-mile sections and substantial portions of three others. The Taylor Fork drainage has long been regarded as one of the most valuable wildlife areas in the Yellowstone region. It provides critical habitat for grizzly bear, wolverine, and lynx and is home to a large wintering moose population. It also serves as an important wintering ground, calving area, and migration route for the Gallatin elk herd. In addition to its ecological significance, the area offers abundant recreational opportunities including hiking, fishing, hunting, and horseback riding.

The land is being offered for sale by David Brask, proprietor of the 320 Guest Ranch, and nine other owners who are being collectively represented by Bozeman attorney Joe Sabol. The land is available for acquisition over a two-year period and, if funding is approved, will be added to the Gallatin National Forest. Public funding will be sought from Congress through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. This year, a total of $3.5 million is needed from this fund to purchase the first phase of the project. The $3.5 million is part of a larger $5.75-million funding package that is being sought to protect critical inholdings throughout the Montana portion of the Yellowstone region.

Bob Dennee, lands specialist for the Gallatin National Forest, said, “Acquiring the private lands in the Taylor Fork has been a goal and priority for the Forest Service, the state of Montana and our conservation partners for many years. Acquiring this land is crucial to avoid future subdivision and development, which would undo everything we have all worked so hard to protect.”

Kurt Alt, biologist for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, emphasized the land’s wildlife values. “In addition to being a primary calving ground for the Gallatin elk herd, the property is an extremely productive habitat for the grizzly bear. Grizzlies do so well here that some sows have produced litters as big as three or four cubs – something which seldom occurs anywhere else in the Yellowstone area.”

Randy Newberg, chairman of Orion The Hunters Institute, agreed. “Completion of the Taylor Fork consolidation is imperative to keeping intact some of the best elk, moose, and grizzly bear habitat in the Yellowstone area. Acquiring the last big block of private holdings will help to ensure that these lands will continue to provide access for public recreation and increase the acreage available for public use.”

Gallatin County Commissioner Bill Murdoch said, “The Taylor Fork is a valuable and treasured resource. Its wildlife and recreational values are unsurpassed and deserve to be protected. I fully support TPL’s efforts to acquire more property in this area and pledge to lend my assistance and support in any way possible.”

Michael Scott, executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, said, “This purchase caps a decade-long effort to protect the Taylor Fork that begin with the Gallatin exchange. This agreement is a win for wildlife, fish, and most importantly, Montanans who treasure this area.”

According to TPL’s Alex Diekmann, “This is an ecological and recreational treasure which many people have been trying to protect for more than a decade, and we are pleased to be contributing to this effort. We look forward to working with the various owners, the Forest Service and our many partners to bring the transaction to a successful close.”

Since it was created in 1971, The Trust for Public Land has used a cooperative approach, in partnership with landowners, community groups and public agencies, to acquire land for public use. In Montana, TPL has offices in Helena and Bozeman. Projects completed in Montana by TPL include protection of Lindbergh Lake, grizzly and bull trout habitat in the Swan Valley, the historic Garnet ghost town, and lands at the Blasdel National Wildlife Refuge and the Gallatin National Forest.