Petition seeks to halt land exchange between BLM, Texas billionaires

by Brett French, Billings Gazette

Some Montana advocates of public lands access seem to be in no mood to negotiate with Texas billionaire brothers Dan and Farris Wilks over land exchange or access deals in central and north-central Montana.

Petitions are circulating asking the Bureau of Land Management’s state director to halt any talks about an exchange that would give the Wilkses possession of a landlocked parcel called the Durfee Hills, surrounded by their N Bar Ranch south of Lewistown, and to build a road around the Wilks’ Anchor Ranch in Blaine County to access 50,000 acres of BLM lands in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. A copy of the petition can now be found online.

Rumors have circulated in the region for two years about deals the BLM and Wilks brothers have discussed to come to an agreement, but since no formal proposal has been made, the process hasn’t been open to any public scrutiny or comment. That prompted the petition, said Ron Moody, a Lewistown resident and former Montana Fish and Wildlife commissioner.

“We want in on the conversation,” Moody said. “Are we supposed to sit out here and wait as influence is brought to bear? Can we speak up, or do we have to wait until we’re asked to speak up?”
Durfee Hills - Fergus County
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