Billionaire brothers settle fence trespass with BLM

by Brett French, Billings Gazette

“The landowner’s fence that illegally encroached on public land in Fergus and Musselshell counties resulting in a lengthy federal investigation has been moved and altered, and remediation has been paid, according to a ranch representative.

Under the terms of the settlement agreements, Wilks Ranch Montana Ltd. will perform rehabilitation and stabilization work valued at about $150,000 and will reimburse the Bureau of Land Management a little more than $71,000 to cover costs associated with the inquiry and survey, according to a BLM news release.

The nine miles of new fence built in 2014 by a local contractor was meant to separate 2,700 acres of landlocked Bureau of Land Management and state property, known locally as the Durfee Hills, from the surrounding NBar and Pronghorn ranches, which are owned by billionaire brothers Farris and Dan Wilks.

The Durfee Hills have become a popular spot for some elk hunters who can reach the property only by plane or helicopter. The land, located southeast of Lewistown, was also at the center of a controversial land exchange proposed by the Wilkses, who wanted the Durfee Hills in trade for portions of a ranch they own north of the Missouri River Breaks that would provide road access to 50,000 acres of BLM land. The BLM declined to consider the land exchange after initially indicating an interest.

When told by conservation watchdogs that the new fence around the Durfee Hills encroached on public land, the BLM initially denied the claim in October 2014, but by April 2015 the agency bowed to pressure and sent its survey team to investigate.”

Durfee Hills - Fergus County
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