Tenderfoot Acquisition Advances

Tenderfoot Acquisition Advances

This is truly one of the most significant public access actions by a government agency – working with private entities – of all time. Think about it, nearly 8,200 acres of prime central Montana mountain and foothill country adjoining public land, eventually to be open. This is open for all public uses – including forest management and fire suppression.

PLWA has been involved with this from the outset: lobbying for Land and Water Conservation Fund appropriations, and working with Forest Service officials. President John Gibson serves on the advisory board of the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust which provided part of the funding.

Sportsmen often take things like this for granted. But they don’t just happen on a whim or stroke of a pen. They take thousands of hours of volunteer time, the dedication of public officials who have the greatest good of the public in mind, and wisdom on the part of cooperating private entities. We don’t know who to thank the most in a case like this.

Sadly, an issue still remains with closing of a the Tenderfoot county road leading to the area. However, that is a different story and we will update you as it emerges. For now we are celebrating the latest success. Here is the story from the Great Falls Tribune :

Tenderfoot land now in public hands


Written by Karl Puckett Tribune Staff Writer

The U.S. Forest Service and private partners have finalized the purchase of 1,920 acres of land near Tenderfoot Creek in Lewis and Clark National Forest from The Bair Ranch Foundation for $2.4 million, the groups announced Wednesday.. “That’s now in public ownership,” said Carol Hatfield, district ranger of the forest’s White Sulphur Ranger District.

Tenderfoot Creek, a tributary of the Smith River in the Little Belt Mountains north of White Sulphur Springs, provides key spawning areas for fish and habitat for elk, mule deer, black bear and many species of birds.

Sections of the Bair Ranch, now held in trust, are intermingled with federal lands.

In April, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the Forest Service was dedicating $40.6 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund for 27 land acquisitions in 15 states, including $2 million for the Tenderfoot.

Bob Dennee, lands program manager for the Forest Service in eastern and central Montana, said the parties closed on the purchase Monday finalizing the property transfer in the Tenderfoot.

The agency previously purchased 1,480 acres from The Bair Ranch Foundation, bringing the total acquisition to 3,400 acres to date.

The Forest Service and the private partners anticipate purchasing another 4,800 acres in the future bring the total acquisition to 8,200 acres, Hatfield said. There is $3 million earmarked for additional purchases in the president’s 2013-14 budget, Hatfield said.”We do plan to keep chipping away at this and complete the acquisition,” Dennee said. “It takes patience and persistence.”

After all the lands are purchased, the Forest Service plans to work with the public to determine how they should be managed, Hatfield said. Management will likely be similar to adjacent lands already in the forest. Fishing, hunting and camping are allowed in those areas, she said.”Basically these lands will be the public’s to enjoy,” Hatfield said.

The purchase price for the 1,920 acres was $2.4 million, Hatfield said. Also contributing were the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Cinnabar Foundation.

David Allen, president of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, said in a statement that the cooperative effort is a model for habitat conservation and a historic opportunity to permanently open 8,200 acres for public hunting and other recreation

It was intent of the Bair family to preserve the land for the public’s enjoyment and educational purposes, Hatfield said. The land is no longer used as a working ranch.

The foundation is working with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the University of Montana on a fisheries study in the Tenderfoot, which is one of the main tributaries of the Smith River. It’s also partnering with UM on a bird habitat study.

A celebration of the land purchases to date is planned at 4 p.m. today at the White Sulphur Ranger District. Dennee said a locked gate, which had blocked access to the Tenderfoot lands, has been unlocked and opened.

Tenderfoot Rd. South Fork
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