U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
It’s not often that the Billings Field Office gets a Christmas present. Sure, sometimes a box of candy shows up (the contents of which disappear in mere seconds), and there’s usually a smattering of Christmas cards taped up around the office. But this year it received 615 acres (the box was HUGE, and the gift wrap alone must have cost a fortune!).
Perhaps the timing was a coincidence, but it felt like Christmas when the field office, on behalf of the United States, accepted the gift of 615 acres adjoining the Weatherman Draw Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) in late December.
Weatherman Draw is located in southern Carbon County approximately 80 miles southwest of Billings. The newly-acquired land provides legal access to the ACEC, which contains the largest collection of polychromatic (many-colored) pictographs in the Northern Plains. The area is considered sacred to several American Indian tribes and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
For years, the BLM and the public, without written authority, have used a parking area and a quarter-mile long foot trail across the private parcel to access the Weatherman Draw public lands. The landowners tolerated the unauthorized use, but when they decided to sell the parcel, that access was threatened. Alternative legal access to Weatherman Draw requires a longer hike around the private property and makes management of the cultural sites located in the west portion of Weatherman Draw difficult. The donation legalizes the traditional use of the parking area and foot trail and secures the most direct access route into the Weatherman Draw for the public, American Indian religious practitioners, and the BLM.
Rather than see the parcel sold and possibly developed or subdivided into ranchettes, a very generous individual offered to purchase the land and donate it to the BLM for the public’s benefit. The donor had a couple of requests—that the land would be managed at the same level of protection as the adjoining Weatherman Draw ACEC and that the donation would remain anonymous.
Billings Field Manager Jim Sparks said, “This was a really good deal, and I especially want to thank the landowners, Rodney and Josephine Crosby, their realtor, and our anonymous benefactor. They were all great to work with.”