More public access is being permanently protected with the purchase of 4,600 acres in the Ninemile/Woodchuck area by the Bureau of Land Management.
This first purchase of the Ninemile portion of the land is part of a larger 11,000-acre project in the lower Blackfoot. The land is near Ninemile Prairie, approximately 30 miles east of Missoula. The BLM plans to purchase the adjacent Woodchuck parcel later this year.
The BLM used $6.8 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to purchase the Ninemile parcel from The Nature Conservancy in a years-long cooperative effort to secure public access on former industrial timber land. Since 1998 the BLM has acquired approximately 32,000 acres of former private timber land in the Blackfoot River watershed from The Nature Conservancy.
The land offers high-quality hunting and hiking, as well as limited summer and winter motorized use, and will be managed similarly to other BLM lands in the Blackfoot Special Recreation Management Area. In addition to public access for recreation, the goal of the acquisition is to maintain working lands including active forest restoration and fuels projects that would improve forest health and watershed function. The public can access the area via Johnsrud Road (Lower Blackfoot Corridor) and/or the Ninemile Prairie Road east of Potomac.
“This is a great milestone in our partnership with The Nature Conservancy to acquire former private timberlands for public ownership,” said Erin Carey, Field Manager for the Missoula Field Office. “The BLM is proud to take on the stewardship of this of these lands and manage them for benefit of the public over the long term.”
Chris Bryant, Western Montana Land Protection Director, echoed that sentiment: “From the beginning, our goal in buying this former Plum Creek timber land was to secure it for public use and to restore the forests so we pass it on in better condition than when we bought it.”
The acquisition aligns with the Department of Interior priorities, including supporting local economies and conserving America’s lands and waters.