MISSOULA, Mont. – The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation provided funding as part of a group effort to conserve 640 acres of key wildlife and riparian habitat in northwestern Montana. The purchase consolidates public ownership in a crucial area for fish and wildlife conservation and ensures permanent public access to it.
”This small tract of wild Montana land is extremely important for a variety of wildlife; from elk to trout,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. ”We’re glad we could utilize our strategic land protection fund and money raised by our RMEF chapters in Montana to help make this purchase possible.”
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) and Five Valleys Land Trust (FVLT) facilitated the acquisition from Plum Creek Timber. The parcel will be permanently incorporated into FWPs adjacent Marshall Creek Wildlife Management Area, which will be managed for wildlife habitat but also for public recreational use including hunting, hiking, bird-watching and continued use of a popular snowmobile trail system.
Conserving the property was a high priority because it contains a 1.3 mile reach of Deer Creek, an important spawning stream for native bull trout and cutthroat trout and a direct cold-water tributary to Seeley Lake, the communitys municipal water source. It also protects productive habitat for Canada lynx in the western United States, as well as valuable cover for grizzly bears moving across the Clearwater Valley.
”Recent research data proved what locals have known for years; Deer Creek is heavily used by bears, lynx, moose, elk and dozens of other species as primary habitat and as a forested corridor connecting the Mission Mountains and Clearwater River Valley,” said Jay Kolbe, FWP wildlife biologist.
”These lands provide clean drinking water, places for people to enjoy the outdoors, and unrivaled wildlife habitat,” said FVLT Manager Lewis Kogan. ”Protecting these lands is a great outcome for the Seeley Lake community.”
In addition to FVLT, FWP and RMEF funding, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, local government agencies, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, and several foundations also provided financial backing.
”This is a great example of the good that can happen when so many different private and public organizations come together to benefit wildlife and wild country,” added Henning.