The Conservation Fund has helped the BLM acquire some acreage in southern Montana that will protect natural resources and block up public land for a variety of public uses.
In early November, the Billings Field Office completed the first phase of a 560-acre acquisition of private land adjoining the Meeteetse Spires Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). Located along the eastern slopes of the Beartooth Mountains about six miles south of Red Lodge, the area mirrors the same high scenic qualities of the Meeteetse Spires.
“It’s a beautiful area surrounded by BLM and Forest Service land,” said Tom Carroll, realty specialist. “There was a tremendous amount of public support for this acquisition.”
The property had been subdivided into 20- and 40-acre parcels; further development would have threatened the acquired lands and adjoining ACEC.
Now publicly owned, the property will allow for much improved public access to the ACEC and Custer National Forest lands.
A rare plant species called Shoshonea pulvinata, which occurs in fewer than 12 locations worldwide, is found in the property’s upper elevations. The area also holds special importance for the Crow Tribe.
The Conservation Fund purchased the entire 560-acre parcel in June 2009 with the intent that the BLM would purchase it in two phases. The first phase, consisting of about 300 acres, is complete. The BLM hopes to complete the second phase this winter. Money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund was used for the purchase.
The newly acquired property will be managed in a way that closely follows the allowed activities on the adjoining Meeteetse Spires ACEC. The 560 acres will be considered for inclusion in the current Meeteetse Spires ACEC in the revision of the Billings/Pompeys Pillar Resource Management Plan, which is underway.
Pumpkin Creek Ranch
Also in early November, the Miles City Field Office formally closed on the second and final phase of a land exchange involving the former Pumpkin Creek Ranch located about 15 miles south of Miles City.
BLM Eastern Montana/Dakotas District Manager Elaine Raper expressed delight in completing the exchange which now brings the entire block of former private land into public ownership.
“Finalizing the last sections completes the efforts of many individuals to create a considerable area the public can enjoy,” she said. “We appreciate our partners who have dedicated their time and resources to make this happen.”
Raper also credited Pam Wall, Miles City Field Office realty specialist, and The Nature Conservancy’s Mark Sommer, who both played significant roles in completing the project in a timely and professional manner.
The BLM, with the support of The Conservation Fund, began work on the assembled land exchange proposal in 2003. The final phase acquired about 1,800 acres of private land remaining within the Pumpkin Creek Ranch using federal lands in Carter County.
“We appreciate the patience and willingness of both the landowners where the lands were acquired and those landowners who purchased parcels in Carter County in order to make this exchange happen,” said Debbie Johnson, assistant field manager.
The exchange created a block of approximately 20,556 acres of federal land available for a variety of public uses as well as the management of BLM resource programs. A detailed management plan will be completed to address various resource uses in the area.