Public access to one of Montana’s premier scenic streams moved a giant step forward recently when the Joint Board of the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust granted $250,000 in funding to buy a parcel of old railroad bed along the creek.
With the leadership of Steve Johnson and John Leeper, two PLWA (formerly PLAAI) members in the area, PLWAhas been active in advocating for the purchase.
Steve Johnson of Big Sky, commented after the decision was announced: “Thanks to your (PLWA) efforts, over 25 letters of support were received, and none in opposition. Our proposal was granted the largest single award, and described very positively in the discussion. It is clear that with your help the Joint Board was convinced that this truly is a special area of Montana worthy of this investment to preserve it for the future.”
“Now the next step will be to fully engage Montana FWP to move forward with an appraisal and negotiation with the seller to come to terms on the acquisition of this property. We have two years in which to do that, and will hope to move forward quickly.”
“Many thanks again for your willingness to get in the mix on this, and back it with your personal efforts. You are what makes conservation initiatives happen here in Montana, and we’re all the richer for it.”
Sixteen-Mile Creek is one of the more historically important areas in Montana. Its name derives from the fact that it enters the Missouri River 16 miles downstream from Three Forks. It runs between Maudlow and Lombard – just upstream from Toston. Without the proposed purchase virtually no public access exists to this magnificent area of Montana.
The rail bed of the original Montana Railroad ran through this creek canyon, which includes some really outstanding scenery. The Milwaukee Road abandoned this line in 1980 and the ownership of the right of way was sadly allowed by the state to revert to adjacent landowners.
The land parcel proposed for purchase is on the eastern edge of this area. It comprises five miles of the rail bed. This parcel links to an otherwise isolated section of state land creating public access to that 640 acres as well, which also adds another mile of fishing along Sixteen Mile Creek. The rail bed is in decent shape and will allow hiking, biking, riding, and fishing.
The local access leaders “have worked tirelessly to plead the case for the purchase of this property in conjunction with a developing of a trail system linking many parts of Montana,” said Dennis Grundman, PLWA Director. They have obtained partial success. The Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust funds will pay for approximately half the cost of the acquisition. We are all confident the balance of the purchase will become available now.”