Last Piece Of Devil’s Canyon Ranch Protected

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has acquired the final piece of the Devil’s Canyon Ranch in the Bighorn Mountains to improve public access in the area, the BLM and The Trust for Public Land (TPL), announced today.

The BLM will add the 2,969-acre parcel to land it acquired earlier from TPL near Little Mountain, about 15 miles east of Lovell. The property will be managed as part of the Craig Thomas Little Mountain Special Management Area, which is named after the late Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., who was a strong supporter of the project.

“We are so pleased that this final piece of the acquisition will now be complete,” said BLM Cody Field Manager Mike Stewart. “The acquisition will improve public access to the area and ensure the protection of the natural and cultural resources found on Little Mountain.”

TPL Project Manager Alex Diekmann said, “Finally, we have ended one of the longest and most contentious fights over public access in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Devil’s Canyon Ranch is a spectacular place and we are proud to have helped protect it for the public to enjoy.”

TPL acquired the 11,179-acre Devil’s Canyon Ranch in 2003 and immediately sold 8,200 acres to BLM. Today’s sale completed the transfer of the land to BLM, at a cost of $2 million. The money came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the federal government’s primary fund for preserving lands across the nation. The appraised fair market value for the 2,969 acres was $3.4 million.

Blake Henning, Vice President of Lands and Conservation for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which contributed $100,000 in 2003 to help with the original acquisition, said, “RMEF is proud to have been a supporter and partner in this important conservation project in Wyoming. The access component as well as the tremendous wildlife benefits secured through this project will benefit future generations of hunters and outdoor recreationists.”

The Devil’s Canyon Ranch had been entirely surrounded by public land, including the Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark, the Big Horn National Forest, and the Big Horn National Recreation Area.

Today’s announcement ended a long dispute over access to more than 20,000 acres of state, BLM and National Forest lands, which are used by sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts. A road closure in 1998 blocked access, but the issue ended up in a federal court. Big Horn County Commissioners sued the ranch owners to gain access to the property, but ultimately lost the case, leaving public acquisition of the ranch as the only workable solution.

TPL is a national non-profit organization which conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, wilderness, and playgrounds. Since it was created in 1972, TPL has conserved more than 2.5 million acres in 47 states. TPL has Montana offices in Bozeman and Helena.