Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Tenderfoot Creek Drainage Land Acquisition Completed

Great Falls, Montana (July 9, 2015) – An eight year public land conservation effort was recently achieved in central Montana. In 2007 The Bair Ranch Foundation a philanthropic Montana foundation, offered to sell 8,221 acres located within the Tenderfoot Creek drainage in Meagher County, Montana with the stated desire that the land be incorporated into the surrounding Lewis & Clark National Forest. The Bair Ranch Foundation recognized the outstanding recreation, wildlife, and resource values and wanted to ensure that those values and public access into the area be conserved for present and future generations.

“The Bair Ranch Foundation, in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service and partners, is pleased to provide the citizens of this great state and this country the opportunity to enjoy Mother Nature at its best into perpetuity,” said Wayne Hirsch, President of The Bair Ranch Foundation.

The 8,221 acres was not one contiguous parcel, but rather consisted of 640 acre sections and partial sections each surrounded by National Forest lands in a checkerboard style.

From 2010 through 2015 nine phased land acquisitions were completed as funding was available. With the recent completion of the final phase, all 8,221 acres has now been consolidated into the Lewis and Clark National Forest. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Tenderfoot Trust were the principal conservation partners working on this project with over 30 MT sportsmen groups aiding the effort by helping to raise broad awareness and support for this unique opportunity. 

 “The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is proud to team up with worthy partners to see this long-time conservation project finally come to pass in totality,” said Chuck Roady, chairman of the RMEF board of directors. “Not only did we work together to conserve a vital piece of Montana elk country, but moose, deer, native westslope cutthroat trout and a wide variety of other species are also benefactors plus the land is now open to permanent public access for hunters, anglers, hikers and others to enjoy.”

Projects like the Tenderfoot acquisition can increase management efficiency by blocking up ownership. They reduce the need for boundary fences, reduce the chance for inadvertent trespass on private lands, and compliment efforts to control noxious weeds and aid in reducing the incidence and cost of controlling wildfire. However, for many supporters the ultimate gift of the Tenderfoot land acquisition is the legacy of future generations of people and healthy wildlife populations continuing to thrive across that landscape into perpetuity. 

 “Throughout this project, the public has told us how glad they are that this area will be conserved,” said Carol Hatfield, White Sulphur Springs District Ranger. “People have told us they think this is a great project. Even those who may never actually use the area support the acquisition for its long term conservation values and preservation of access for current and future generations.” 

Collectively, the project’s partners and other supporters raised approximately $500,000 of the roughly $10,600,000 needed to complete this acquisition. The balance of the funding was provided through Land and Water Conservation Act funding. Montana’s Governor has also been a strong supporter of the Tenderfoot acquisition as well as the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) which made this acquisition possible. 

 “From fishing access sites, to trails, to playgrounds, to smart investments like the Tenderfoot, the LWCF is a win-win for Montana. The Tenderfoot is an exceptional example of how Montanans can work together to protect our public lands for future generations,” said Gov. Steve Bullock. 

From the project’s start in 2007 through its recent completion, The Bair Ranch Foundation consistently worked with the other partners towards completing this project. 

 “We all appreciate The Bair Ranch Foundation’s patience and generosity in working with the partners to complete the acquisition of these lands by the Forest Service,” said Butch Marita, Chairman of the Tenderfoot Trust. “This acquisition took five years longer than we anticipated due to limited Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars. The Bair Ranch Foundation stuck with us in spite of these delays and additionally they contributed 5% of the sale price to a fund that has been set up to support the future management of the area. All of us who care about wildlife and wild places owe them a depth of gratitude.”

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