As a chilly wind blew in off Hauser Lake, the small crowd huddled under the pavilion at White Sandy Recreation Site. The weather couldn’t dampen their spirits, however—they were there to celebrate the ceremonial transfer of a strip of land from landowners Dave and Shelli Hoerning to the BLM’s Butte Field Office.
The innovative land use transaction, which will provide more public recreation opportunities at Hauser Lake, was completed by BLM, the Hoernings and PPL Montana in early spring 2010 and representatives from all three parties and their guests gathered on April 23 to celebrate the exchange.
The transaction, known as the Causeway Land Exchange, protects the investments made by PPL Montana and the BLM at White Sandy, protects the views enjoyed by Hauser Lake visitors and provides more opportunities for the public to enjoy the lake.
The BLM, PPL Montana and the Hoernings, who live in Helena, began talking in 2002 about a property exchange that would allow the Hoernings to build a home in an area where subdivisions and residential development already exist, while at the same time conserving and freeing up land for public use. Ultimately, an exchange agreement was reached which consolidated five non-contiguous, intermingled parcels into a 681-acre block of public land, creating more than two-and-a-half miles of continuous lakeshore for public use.
“The win-win expression is often over-used these days, but it really applies here,” said Rick Hotaling, district manager for the BLM’s Western Montana District. “The Hoernings now have a parcel of land that they can use, and the Bureau and PPL Montana can continue working together to provide public recreational opportunities here at Hauser Lake.”
PPL Montana contributed $1.4 million to acquire, design and develop the White Sandy Recreation Site at Hauser Dam. The company also contributed $400,000 to expand the dam’s causeway and reconstruct the access site. In addition to its initial contributions, PPL Montana continues to provide $50,000 a year for the operation and maintenance of recreational sites at Hauser Dam.
“This land dedication is a great example of what can happen when people work together to reach an agreement that benefits the public and protects and expands the outdoor recreational resources of our state,” said David Hoffman, director of external affairs for PPL Montana.
“We thank Dave and Shelli Hoerning and the staff of the Bureau of Land Management for their cooperative spirit and concern for the protection of our state’s natural resources,” Hoffman said.
Hauser Lake and nearby Lake Helena are popular sites for recreational activities such as fishing and hiking. Numerous campgrounds dot the river above and below the dam. PPL Montana’s Holter Dam, located 29 miles downstream, offers additional recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.