A land conservation group says it has helped ensure that 7,300 acres of land in western Montana’s Blackfoot River corridor remains in public hands.
The Nature Conservancy says the acquisition, just east of Missoula in the Belmont Creek area, is due in large part to funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF uses royalties from offshore oil and gas development to fund outdoor projects.
In a $5.6 million deal announced this week the Conservancy sold the land, formerly owned by Plum Creek Timber company, to the Bureau of Land Management.
The group says the sale has stitched together what was once a patchwork of public and private land.
As more funding becomes available, the Conservancy’s Western Montana Land Protection Director says the group would like to sell more land to the BLM. Chris Bryant, says that’s one reason why LWCF’s full funding is crucial.
"There's an opportunity to permanently protect a significant amount of land up the Blackfoot — former industrial timber land — and Land and Water Conservation would be a key part of that, if not the only funding mechanism, but it is by far the most important one."
The land is already open to the public, but Bryant says as long as it was privately owned there was no guarantee it would remain that way.