MISSOULA, Mont.-Conservationists have completed a deal to permanently protect 1,036 acres of elk winter range on the outskirts of Missoula, Mont. A new conservation easement held by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation ensures wildlife habitat values by restricting development even if land ownership changes in the future.

The easement was partially donated by the Deschamps family of Missoula. City of Missoula and Missoula County open space bond programs provided support. RMEF brokered the deal and provided technical assistance to make the project happen.

Closing documents were officially recorded on Friday, June 3.

The property has been in the Deschamps family since 1908. The area is now under considerable development pressure with more and more houses dotting the landscape at lower elevations. The conservation easement guarantees a different fate for Deschamps land, and the family plans to continue its ranching tradition.

“This is an incredible parcel of land that’s been in the Deschamps family for generations. We’re grateful to them for their vision to protect it forever,” said Mike Mueller, lands program manager for RMEF. “The easement on this property covers a great diversity of habitat from forests and streams to native grasslands and wildflower meadows. About 75 elk spend each winter here, and there are deer, bear, songbirds, raptors and many other species of wildlife.”

He added, “You can see this property from up and down the Clark Fork River valley, Interstate 90, State Highway 93 and across the Missoula valley, so countless people will always be able to see and enjoy the open space and productive ranchland.”

Mueller thanked the Missoula County Commission, Missoula City Council and both city and county Open Space Citizen Advisory Committees for “using open space bond funds to save some of the area’s best elk country.”

Jackie Corday, open space program manager for the City of Missoula, said, “This beautiful property contributes significantly to the scenic viewshed of the Missoula Valley and has important wildlife and bird habitat, and it presented a great opportunity for the city and county to jointly contribute to its preservation since it straddles the Missoula and Frenchtown Planning Regions. The generosity of Deschamps family in donating 50 percent of the value made the project possible.”

Director of Missoula County Rural Initiatives Patrick O’Herren said, “Missoula County and city residents are fortunate to have generous landowners who recognize the value of their land to current and future generations. This parcel hosts significant wildlife, plant and soil communities, which contribute greatly to the quality of life that makes western Montana such a desirable place to live, work and visit. The county’s Open Lands Committee and the county commissioners congratulate the landowners, RMEF and all the supporting people and organizations that made this project such a success.”

Monitoring conservation easement provisions is the permanent responsibility of RMEF.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.9 million acres-a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. RMEF also works to open, secure and improve public access for hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.

Contact:

Steve Wagner, Blue Heron Communications, 800-654-3766 or steve@blueheroncomm.com

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