Montana/Dakotas

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Iron Mask Ranch Now in Public Ownership

by Marilyn Krause, BLM Western Montana Zone

The fourth and final phase of the Iron Mask Ranch acquisition is now complete with the transfer of 2,472 acres to the Bureau of Land Management in July. The acreage on the east flank of the Elkhorn Mountains northwest of Townsend completes the transfer of the 5,548-acre ranch into public ownership.
           
The property blocks up public land in the area with the Forest Service, BLM and the state of Montana. It is an important piece of real estate because it provides critical winter range for elk and bighorn sheep and year-round habitat for elk, antelope, mule and white-tailed deer.
 
“Thanks to our partners in this effort – The Conservation Fund, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Montana’s congressional delegation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, this important acquisition is now a reality,” stated Rick Hotaling, BLM Field Manager in Butte. “BLM is pleased to have played a role in facilitating this acquisition for the public.”
 
Funding for the final phase came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which receives revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling. Annual appropriations are made by congress for projects that meet the criteria and have public support.
 
Last year the Iron Mask acquisition was featured in a series of three articles in the Bugle magazine (July/Aug 2006), the official publication of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.  To view the articles, visit www.rmef.org and click on news and media.
 
Iron Mask has been a focus of the Elkhorn Conservation Initiative, launched in 2003 by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Forest Service, BLM, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The goal of the initiative is to bring communities, landowners, and hunters together in a five-year effort to protect and enhance at least 20,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the Elkhorns.
 
 
view of the Iron Mask Ranch
Critical winter range is provided by the mix of grassy slopes and sheltered draws on the Iron Mask Ranch. Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation