MISSOULA, Mont. — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and U.S. Forest Service worked with a willing landowner to conserve two private inholdings of wildlife habitat and conveyed them to the Lolo National Forest. The 1,040-acre transaction took place just west of Lolo, a small western Montana town about 10 miles south of Missoula.
“We greatly appreciate YT Timber for asking us to conserve this land and help transfer it into the public’s hands,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “This acreage serves as both important winter range and a movement corridor for elk, moose, deer and other wildlife species.”
The transaction opens public access to the 1,040 acres and secures new access points to several thousand acres of surrounding public lands. In doing so, it alleviates challenges for hunters and others because of the area’s checkboard ownership pattern.
“This project secures the last remaining and intact wildlife movement zone across the north end of the Bitterroot Valley between the Bitterroot Mountain Range and Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness to the south and west, the Sapphire Mountain Range to the east and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem to the north,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “Maintaining contiguous public ownership in this area ensures the protection of these larger movement corridors.”
In addition to providing prime wildlife habitat in the form of forested conifers, aspen and other vegetation, the two parcels feature key riparian habitat since more than one mile of Bear Creek, Camp Creek and Sleeman Creek, all headwater streams and tributaries of Lolo Creek below, cross the property. The transaction protects these spawning and rearing areas for native westslope cutthroat trout and other fish species.
The properties are within or adjacent to important segments of the Lewis and Clark and Nez Perce (Nee Me Poo) National Historical Trails. The properties are also adjacent to portions of the Lolo Trail National Historical Landmark, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Thanks to its wildlife, habitat, public access, recreational, cultural and historical features and benefits, the project received critical funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
RMEF has a long, successful history over several decades working with the Yanke family and its timber companies to provide many conservation benefits in Montana. In 2000, the parties collaborated to protect and open access to the 32,000-acre Watershed Project near Anaconda resulting in the creation of the Mt. Haggin Wildlife Management Area, one of the state’s largest WMAs. At the time, it marked one of the biggest projects in RMEF history.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded more than 37 years ago and fueled by hunters, RMEF maintains more than 225,000 members and has conserved more than 8.2 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.