Thanks to a conservation collaboration by a longtime traditional landowner, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation 3,600 acres of wildlife and riparian habitat in the Big Hole River watershed will now be protected as public lands. This recent acquisition includes two miles of the Big Hole River and two miles of Seymour Creek, both of which cross the land and provide important habitat for cold water fish species. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, Montana Fish & Wildlife Conservation Trust, The Conservation Alliance and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation provided funding for this project, totaling about $9 million. Moving forward, the BLM will manage the lands for multiple uses.
The property is located about 55 miles south of Butte, Montana in Beaverhead and Deer Lodge Counties. It features mountains, meadows, sagebrush, grasslands, and conifer and aspen stands that are home to elk, mule and whitetail deer, moose, pronghorn antelope, small game, upland birds, waterfowl and other species. The waters and the surrounding riparian habitat of both the Big Hole River and Seymour Creek are vital for westslope cutthroat, brook, brown and rainbow trout. They also provide a refuge for the last wild population of fluvial Arctic grayling in the Lower 48. The watershed serves also as a crucial linkage corridor between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem for grizzly bears and Canada lynx.
This is a major victory for wildlife and those that work to protect biodiversity. This increased access allows biologists to better manage wildlife populations in what was previously a complex land ownership pattern. And it’s not just a win for wildlife – this new addition to our nation’s public lands network allows for conservation and recreation to work hand in hand, and for new opportunities to enjoy the beauty and solitude found on these lands.