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County contributes $260K to secure public access – Helena Independent Record

Lewis and Clark County will tap its open lands bond for $260,000 to help the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation purchase 729 acres that will be donated to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Draft findings contained in an investigation of the property — a due diligence review — by the Office of the Lewis and Clark County Attorney called for an agreement by the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to be filed with the deed for the Specimen Creek property.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has indicated its intent to complete the purchase by mid-August.

The land is owned by Stimson Lumber Co. and located about 2½ miles south of Flesher Pass, in the Canyon Creek drainage, and contains portions of three creeks: Canyon, Specimen and Weino creeks, according to the county staff report. State Highway 279 passes through the property.

Purchase of the land improves access to about 4,400 acres of national forest lands. The property is also adjacent to the 2,210-acre Canyon Creek Wildlife Management Area.

Funding for the $550,000 purchase will also include $240,000 from the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, $35,000 from the Elk Foundation and potentially $15,000 from the Cinnabar Foundation.

While the land is currently managed for timber production, Stimson Lumber Co. estimates it holds 3.7 million board feet. The property was last logged in 2007-2008.

According to the level two application for county open lands program funds, mineral rights have been severed from the property.

The due diligence report noted that an environmental assessment included an evaluation of minerals. Within that evaluation, the due diligence report stated, was the conclusion that mineral development on the property was “so remote as to be negligible.”

Wildlife habitat for trout was noted in the application for the open lands program funds, as was that for upland game birds, small mammals and birds, as well as elk, deer, bear, forest carnivores, raptors and endemic and neo-tropical migrant birds.

The property is within the Continental Divide wildlife movement corridor, a Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks priority area for conservation of species such as Canada lynx, grizzly bear and wolverine, the application noted.

Elevation of the property ranges from 5,500 feet to 5,800 feet and the landscape is primarily sloped.

“The public will be able to view this property while driving the highway and will have the opportunity to access it from the highway or from the (wildlife management area) for hunting, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking and wildlife viewing,” the application stated.

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