MISSOULA, Mont.—Over 150 acres of habitat for elk and other wildlife are now permanently protected as part of the Helena National Forest in southwest Montana, thanks to the recent completion of a four-year land acquisition project.
Partners include the Winston Livestock Co., Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust and U.S. Forest Service.
“This project has ensured the future of critical habitat once locked up in private in-holdings within the Elkhorn Wildlife Management Unit,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Along with the wildlife benefits of consolidated ownership, public access to these lands is now guaranteed.”
Each phase of the project involved simultaneous transactions between Winston Livestock Co. and RMEF, with RMEF re-conveying lands to the United States. The final phase, completed in September, involved just over 100 acres in the Kelly Springs area. Previously, the project impacted 29 acres in the Weasel Creek area in 2007 and 21 acres in the South Fork Beaver Creek area in 2006.
Helena National Forest Supervisor Kevin Riordan said, “I’m excited that we’ve been able to cooperatively complete this final phase of an important land acquisition in the Elkhorn Mountains. We’ve been working with the Winston Livestock Company, Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation over the past four years to assure conservation of these lands. I look forward to working with these partners in the future on other worthy projects that so obviously benefit the public.”
The Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust provided vital funding. The fund, established with proceeds from the sale of cabin sites on federal lands at nearby Canyon Ferry Reservoir, is used to restore and conserve fisheries and wildlife habitat, enhance public hunting, fishing and recreational opportunities, and improve access to public lands.
Additional funding was provided by the Cinnabar Foundation and Forest Service Land and Water Conservation Funds.
The Elkhorn Mountains range from gentle meadows to rugged peaks. Deer, bighorn sheep, bear, moose, mountain goats, wolverines, westslope cutthroat trout and a variety of birds inhabit the area. The Elkhorn Wildlife Management Unit is a trophy elk area.
Since 2003, the Elk Foundation has impacted over 10,000 acres of habitat in the Elkhorn Mountains, including protecting and opening for public access more than 6,500 acres.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has already conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.4 million acres—a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. Most work occurs on public lands. More than 561,000 acres have been opened or secured for public access including hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.