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Montana/Dakotas State Office
Release Date: 03/18/14
Contacts: Jonathan Moor, 406-538-1943    
  Or Melodie Lloyd, 406-896-5260    

BLM Explores Several Options for Restoring Access to Bullwhacker - Recent Development Sets Stage for Public Process

LEWISTOWN, MT – The Bureau of Land Management today confirmed that a preliminary proposal to exchange private and public lands in Blaine, Fergus, and Musselshell Counties has been received from Wilks Ranch Montana, Ltd., a corporation owned by Farris and Dan Wilks.  This preliminary proposal is the result of discussions between the Wilkses and the BLM. 

“The principal motivation for BLM in entertaining a land exchange is that it offers a potential avenue to restore public access to about 50,000 acres of Missouri Breaks backcountry,” said Stan Benes, BLM’s Central Montana District Manager.

The BLM has been pursuing the restoration of access to the Bullwhacker Coulee area in Blaine County since it was lost as a result of a legal determination several years ago.

“While rumors of a potential land exchange have circulated for some time, we have had nothing formal to engage with the public upon,” said Benes.  “Now that a preliminary proposal has been received, we want to enlist the help of all interested parties in assessing possible ways forward.”

The BLM will begin the process of preparing an environmental assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act to guide its decision making in this matter.  Analyzed in that document will be alternative methods of restoring public access to the Bullwhacker, one of which would be a potential land exchange.  Also under consideration is the construction or improvement of road access into the area.  The public will be asked to provide additional ideas they may have during the scoping process for the EA.

“Emotions have run high amidst the loss of access in the Bullwhacker, fueled by speculation regarding a land exchange.  I would ask that folks take a step back and help us take a reasoned look at the merits and impacts of the various options,” said Benes.

“Beginning with the scoping process and continuing throughout the preparation of the EA, there will be many opportunities for the public to weigh in,” he added.

The public may view the Wilks brothers’ preliminary proposal with maps, as well as BLM maps, on the BLM’s website at  All 12 of the BLM-managed parcels included have no overland, legal public access and are difficult to properly manage; one 40-acre parcel, however, can be accessed via aircraft *.  In addition to restoring vehicle access to about 50,000 acres in the Missouri Breaks, a potential land exchange could open another 10,000 acres to the Coal Mine Coulee area and Big Snowy Mountains for all who seek to enjoy their public lands and national forests.

For more information about access on BLM-managed lands, contact Realty Specialist Jim Ledger at (406) 329-3733, Stan Benes at (406) 538-1900, or visit  If you have comments or an option for the BLM to consider, you may send an email to

For the latest BLM news and updates, visit us on the web at, on Facebook at, or follow us on Twitter @BLM_MTDKs.

*Correction - None of these BLM in-holdings, including Durfee Hills, have overland public access.  Limited access by fixed wing aircraft is available on established two tracks which are suitable to land on without going cross-country.  All the proposed parcels may be accessible by helicopter.  This area is accessed by a limited number of user's each year.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Last updated: 03-19-2014