Del, Jim, Lee and Merlin Voegele purchased the 2,810-acre property in the Big Belt Mountains in 1975. It was their vision that their land would be conserved for its wildlife habitat values and opened to the public. RMEF worked with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park (FWP), the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF), Safari Club International (SCI) and the Cinnabar Foundation to make that happen. The transaction expanded the size of the 32,000-acre Beartooth Wildlife Management Area (WMA) by nine percent.
The breezy celebration took place on location at the Beartooth WMA headquarters. Those on hand included FWP Director Jeff Hagener, FWP Commissioner Richard Stucker, RMEF Board Member Mike Baugh and representatives and volunteers of RMEF and other sportsmen groups. Hagener and Stucker thanked the Voegele family for their vision and patience in making the Whitetail Prairie project a reality. They also thanked the partners for working together to finalize the deal. Baugh and RMEF Elkhorn Chapter Chair Joe Cohenour praised RMEF members and volunteers for making the project possible. RMEF also thanked the other partners for their successful involvement.
The Voegele brothers thanked all involved for all their dedicated efforts in completing the project immediately before the end of 2014. They joined together to unveil a new sign that will welcome all who visit.
“You guys initiated a project that apparently ignited a fire under a whole lot of like-minded folks, including a number of behind-the-scenes volunteers who seemingly never quit working,” said Del, Jim and Merlin Voegele. “Please understand that the Voegeles genuinely appreciate all that everyone did to accomplish the end result. Everyone was very nice to us, and we are grateful to you.”
“We are very pleased that we are in a position to help the sportsmen in Montana and work with FWP. We appreciate all who have supported the Great Falls Chapter of SCI. The Whitetail Prairie acquisition is an excellent example of projects our chapter is involved with now and in the future, said SCI’s Patty Ehrhardt.
The Whitetail Prairie property supplies habitat for approximately 1,500 area elk as well as mule deer, whitetail deer, bighorn sheep, grouse, bear, mountain lion and a variety of other species including fish and birds. And it is now available for hunters, anglers, hikers and others to enjoy a stretch of land that is forever protected and opened for public access.