MISSOULA, Mont.—Another 330 acres of South Dakota elk country will always be as it’s always been.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has announced phase-three completion of a project to permanently protect 2,400 acres from the crush of development that is changing forever the state’s Black Hills area.

Tucked in southern Custer County bordering Wind Cave National Park, the Lady C Ranch sought help from the Elk Foundation to protect a tract called Wildcat Canyon. In a deal brokered by the habitat conservation group, segments of the land are gradually being transferred from the ranch to the U.S. Forest Service. The first two phases moved 482 acres into public access as part of the Black Hills National Forest.

“This project is the No. 1 priority within our Black Hills conservation effort,” said David Allen, a Deadwood, S.D., native now serving as president and CEO of the Elk Foundation.

Allen thanked the Forest Service “for their great partnership in a crucial and ongoing project,” and reiterated the Elk Foundation’s appreciation for Lady C Ranch owners Bill and Deena Whitlow. Allen also thanked members of the South Dakota congressional delegation for their commitment and support of the project.

The Elk Foundation will continue to seek federal appropriations through Land and Water Conservation Funds, as well as private gifts, to finance subsequent phases.

With ponderosa pine forests, oaks, shrubs and grasslands falling into deep ravines, Wildcat Canyon is home to many species of wildlife including as many as 200 elk. Keeping this habitat intact is expected to help prevent the area’s growing elk herd from conflict with neighboring private landowners.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Founded in 1984 and headquartered in Missoula, Mont., the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat. The Elk Foundation and its partners have permanently protected or enhanced over 5.2 million acres, a land area larger than Connecticut, Delaware and District of Columbia combined. More than 500,000 acres previously closed to public access are now open for hunting, fishing and other recreation. To help protect wild elk country or learn more about the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, visit www.elkfoundation.org or call 800-CALL-ELK.