Game Range photo by Bill Thomas, FW&P.
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
December 17, 1998
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Critical wildlife habitat in the Blackfoot Clearwater Wildlife Management Area northeast of Missoula may be permanently protected as the result of talks begun by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and Plum Creek Timber Company, L.P.
The partners have agreed to explore opportunities - ranging from land and timber exchanges to fee acquisition and conservation easements - to ensure the future of this important habitat.
The U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Five Valleys Land Trust will also participate in the effort.
The Blackfoot Clearwater WMA is Montana's largest state-owned WMA, encompassing more than 67,000 acres of land owned or leased by FWP for its value to wildlife.
The 7,800 acres now under discussion are currently leased to FWP by Plum Creek, and make up the core wintering grounds for animals that use the area.
Since the Department of Fish and Game purchased its part of the property in 1948, their leases on the remaining acres have been renewed annually by the timber companies who have owned and managed more land within the WMA than any other entity.
"During the last 50 years, timber and wildlife managers dealt with issues regarding the Blackfoot-Clearwater WMA as they arose, sealing agreements with a handshake and little else," said Mack Long, FWP Region 2 Supervisor.
"By bringing these partners together, we hope to permanently ensure that the WMA remains an effective winter habitat and sanctuary for the migratory herds of elk and deer that depend on its forests, rangelands and open space for their survival." he added.
Over the course of managing the WMA, the agency has received cooperation, input and support from the respective timber companies and the public, enhancing benefits to wildlife and to outdoor enthusiasts.
As a result, the area now supports 1,000 elk, 1,000 mule deer and 1,000 white-tailed deer that migrate to the area during winter months. Grizzly bears, black bears, mountain lions, wolves, and moose also roam the WMA, which is one of western Montana's premiere wildlife viewing areas.
As the details of the transaction unfold, including the specific lands identified during negotiations, the partners will inform the public.
Denny Sigars, Plum Creek's Clearwater Unit Manager, said, "Plum Creek has a history of cooperative management in the Blackfoot-Clearwater area. We are pleased to be working cooperatively with all of the partners toward long-term conservation of the area."
The Elk Foundation and the Five Valleys Land Trust will begin fundraising efforts to support the project.
The Land Trust and FWP have commissioned artist Monte Dolack to produce an original work commemorating the WMA's 50th anniversary, which will be celebrated in June next year.
Dolack has agreed to donate the original painting to the project. Proceeds from the sale of posters produced from the original will also be directed to the project. For more information, please contact Five Valleys at (406) 549-0755. The partners will hold a 50th-anniversary celebration on June 12, 1999, at the Blackfoot-Clearwater WMA.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is an international, nonprofit conservation organization whose mission is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat. Founded in 1984, the foundation has 110,000 members - including 7,300 in Montana - who have helped generate more than $70 million to conserve and enhance 2.4 million acres of wildlife habitat across North America. The Elk Foundation is headquartered in Missoula, Montana.