A joint project between Shodair Children’s Hospital, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) to create a new 5,677-acre wildlife management area at the base of the Big Snowy Mountains faces one final hurdle – an October 17th vote by the State Land Board.
“This land conservation and access project is a 2022 organizational priority. It benefits land and wildlife management, hunting and other recreational access, and yet honors long-time agricultural practices,” said Jennifer Doherty, RMEF director of lands and access. “We encourage our members, sportsmen and women, and all Montanans to reach out to land board members and urge them to approve this project.”
FWP plans to create the new Big Snowy Mountains Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The property is in Golden Valley County north of Ryegate between Billings and Lewistown. Not only would project approval open the door to 5,677 acres of new public access but it would improve access to more than 10,000 acres of adjacent public land in a region where access is difficult.
The WMA would be a boon to wildlife managers since it would allow them to better manage the state’s elk population as well as carry out habitat improvement work.
Financial contributors include hunters via Pittman-Robertson excise taxes, Habitat Montana, Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, and the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust. RMEF will also allocate $250,000 to help FWP with set-up and future property management improvements including fencing, invasive weed control, water developments, signage and maps.
FWP will ensure traditional land management use by honoring continued grazing practices with a grazing lessee.
“Habitat loss and conversion remain the most pressing challenges facing elk, other wildlife and hunters. By working with state and federal agencies, private landowners and other partners, RMEF employs meaningful land conservation strategies that ensure elk habitat remains viable, connected and accessible,” added Doherty.
The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission gave its green light to the project on August 25.
Montanans made 107 comments during the public comment part of FWP’s environmental assessment. One hundred and four of them, or 97 percent, were in favor.
(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)