by Kit Fischer
“The Bair Ranch Foundation granted the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) an exclusive option to purchase the lands. Recognizing what was at stake, The US Forest Service made the acquisition a top priority and a new group of Montanans called the Tenderfoot Trust joined the RMEF to help raise money and public support for the deal, as did a wide array of other groups and individuals. The Meagher County Commissioners (where Tenderfoot is located) voiced unanimous support, and Montana’s Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester did the same.
In 2010, with money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, The Elk Foundation made the first purchase of 1,160 acres of the Bair Ranch Foundation properties. In 2011, 320 more were purchased with LWCF funds. From parks and fitness trails in poverty-stricken inner cities to wetlands that protect drinking water for millions, the US was awash with need for LWCF funds, and competition for the money was extremely tight. Had the LWCF been charged up fully with the money that its founders mandated, there would have been few problems. Because the fund had been raided, there was not enough to go around. But the RMEF was unflagging in its advocacy for the Tenderfoot, and the tenacity paid off. In summer of 2013, the total number of acres acquired and transferred to public ownership in the Lewis and Clark National Forest stood at 5,760.”