The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, in coordination with Lewis and Clark County, the Dan Barrett family, Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks and many other partners, is thrilled to announce 442 acres of prime wildlife and riparian habitat along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front are now permanently protected and in the public’s hands.
Called the Falls Creek project, it greatly improves access to more than 26,000 acres of public land containing prime elk habitat beyond it.
“This is a major conservation accomplishment on so many fronts and we are ecstatic about it,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “Our goal was to raise nearly $2.5 million dollars over a relatively short period of time and a lot of good folks stepped up to make it happen. And all this transpired in time for the 2019 general big game hunting season.”
“This is an example of a great partnership that provides public access to 26,000 acres of National Forest system lands,” said Bill Avey, Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest supervisor. “We’re very thankful to the Barrett family, Lewis and Clark County, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and all of the partners who worked so hard to make this happen.”
The property is primarily forestland and grassy meadows. It is located about 30 miles southwest of Augusta. Its entire eastern boundary is bordered by more than one mile of Falls Creek, including the scenic Falls Creek waterfall at the back of the acreage, while the western and northern boundaries are bordered by private lands and the Dearborn River.
Two FWP employees, wildlife biologist Brent Lonner and game warden Bryan Golie, were honored by RMEF for their work in initiating the contact with the landowner and all the partners.
“This landscape provides quality habitat for many species of wildlife including elk, whitetail deer, grizzly and black bears, and mountain lions,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “It’s also important spring, summer and fall range for elk in a hunting district (HD 422) where the population is well over objective, in part, because gaining access has been so difficult for a long time.”
The previously inaccessible Falls Creek trailhead and trail open to the public on August 28 and will provide access for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, horseback riding and other non-motorized travel and recreational use.
“We are incredibly excited the county is able to contribute to the purchase of this property and we thank the voters of Lewis and Clark County who had the foresight to approve the Land, Water and Wildlife bond more than a decade ago,” said Lewis and Clark County Commission Chair Jim McCormick. “Falls Creek is an extraordinary project, exactly the use this bond was intended for, and we know our residents will be out enjoying it this fall.”
RMEF brokered the transaction and conveyed the 442 acres to the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest.
Organizations that provided project funding include the Lewis and Clark County Open Lands Program, RMEF, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Bass Pro Shops, The Conservation Fund, Safari Club International – Great Falls Chapter, The Conservation Alliance and the Mule Deer Foundation. Many private individuals also contributed.