MISSOULA, Mont.–The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation teamed up with a collaboration of groups to acquire an additional 2,360 acres of land within Montana’s Tenderfoot Creek drainage to protect wildlife habitat and ensure public access. This purchase brings the total acquired land to 5,760 acres of what is now part of the Lewis and Clark National Forest (LCNF).
The groups working to conserve these lands include the Bair Ranch Foundation, RMEF, Tenderfoot Trust and U.S. Forest Service.
“This is a true conservation success story. We applaud our partners for diligently working together to conserve this vital habitat,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “Not only does this cooperative work greatly benefit elk, other wildlife and trout, but it opens the door for the public to hunt, fish, hike, camp and otherwise enjoy a diverse and beautiful part of Montana’s backcountry.”
The Bair Ranch Foundation originally offered 8,220 acres of private land for sale along the tributary of the Smith River system with a desire that it become publicly owned in order to both conserve the area’s natural resources and to guarantee permanent public access to thousands of acres of intermingled national forest land.
“This phase of the Tenderfoot project was made possible due to the persistence and vision of the Bair Ranch Foundation and a total team effort,” said Henning. “The funding came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund through support from Senators Max Baucus, Jon Tester and our partners.”
The Tenderfoot lands span 3,200 feet in elevation from sub-alpine mountains to grass meadows and riparian areas. The property provides high quality water and fisheries habitat including west slope cutthroat trout, habitat for elk, moose, deer and a multitude of other species, scenic views, and opportunities for many forms of recreation including hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, managed ATV use, snowmobiling and other uses.
“Future generations will camp, fish, hunt and recreate in this area because of the goodwill and foresight of the Bair Ranch Foundation and the hard work of the other partners who worked in concert to make this acquisition a reality,” said District Ranger Carol Hatfield of the White Sulphur Ranger District on the LCNF.
“We started this project more than seven years ago, primarily because it was a checkerboard ownership in a large block of relatively pristine wildlife habitat,” said Butch Marita, chairman of the board for the Tenderfoot Trust. “Completing this project will block the ownership into a solid tract of publicly owned land, thereby conserving the area’s fish and wildlife values. We hope to finish acquiring the rest of the land with one additional phase.”
An additional 2,460 acres of Bair Ranch Foundation lands remain to be acquired to fully complete the Tenderfoot project. Through early 2013, Tenderfoot partners completed five phased purchases, consolidating 5,760 acres of land into the LCNF.