A 40-acre acquisition by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will improve access to nearly 18,000 acres of National Forest public lands in central Montana for hunting other recreational enjoyment.
“This strikes at the heart of what RMEF is all about,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “We are committed to opening more land for hunting and other year-round recreational public access and now the gate is open for hunters to more easily access thousands of acres of elk country previously almost impossible to reach.”
Recently acquired by RMEF, the property contains a 30-foot common boundary with a corner piece of the Lewis and Clark National Forest (LCNF), best known as home of the Big and Little Snowy Mountains. The transaction is a cooperative effort between the RMEF, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the LCNF, and willing landowners Marshall and Leslie Long.
RMEF purchased the land for $190,000 and will offer it to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for $50,000, in effect donating the remaining balance of $140,000 to FWP. To complete the land transfer, FWP will launch a public environmental analysis to get the land acquisition approved by the FWP Commission and the Montana Land Board.
RMEF and its partners signed an agreement that sets the stage for the FWP to provide an entrance, parking area, signage and a defined access trail into the forest. The goal is to have the improvements in place by October 26, opening day of the 2013 general big game rifle season.
“This small but critical piece of land offers both big game habitat and exceptional access to public land that supports a prized elk population,” said Gary Bertellotti, FWP Region 4 supervisor. “FWP wants to thank the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for its efforts to secure the Red Hill property and partnering with FWP to provide access to elk and National Forest public lands for future generations.”
“This is a big win for hunters and other members of the public because there was realistically no easy way to reach this part of the Snowys. This public access will allow hunters to play a more active part with management of an elk herd that is over objective.” added Allen.
Aerial surveys conducted by FWP this past February revealed a population count of approximately 4,000 elk in the Big and Little Snowy Mountains with a calf to cow ratio of 30:100.
The transaction conserves a diverse mixture of aspen and forest, grasslands, meadows, wetlands, and a spring and intermittent stream; and provides important habitat for elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, black bear, grouse and a vast array of other wildlife.
Funding for the project came from the Torstenson Family Endowment which is used solely to further RMEF’s core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.
To date, RMEF projects opened or improved access to approximately 668,000 acres of elk country across the nation.
Logo courtesy Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation