The Montana Land Board on July 20 approved three Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) land purchases totalling nearly 740 acres.
Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of FWP purchasing a 600 acre section of land near Anaconda as an addition to the nearly 10,000 acre Garrity Mountain Wildlife Management Area.
Mike Mueller with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation spoke during a public comment period.
“These types of projects like we’re doing today make total sense. What we’re doing is we’re adding on to our historic and our important wildlife management areas,” Mueller said.
FWP officials have called the 600 acres a missing puzzle piece to protect key wildlife habitat from subdivisions and an opportunity to increase access to public land.
Representatives from the Anaconda Sportsman’s Club and the Montana Wildlife Federation also provided public comment at the meeting in support of the land purchase.
Montana’s Land Board commissioners include Governor Steve Bullock, Attorney General Tim Fox, Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Matthew Rosendale, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton and Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen.
“The injuries to our land are certainly something that we all feel, but this is going to make a meaningful difference not just immediate but for generations. So great work,” Bullock said to the presenters before the commissioners voted.
The bulk of funding for the 600 acre land purchase came from Montana’s Natural Resource Damage Protection Program. It uses settlement dollars from the state’s lawsuit against Atlantic Richfield Company for damages to natural resources in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin to fund projects that “restore, rehabilitate, replace or acquire the equivalent of the injured natural resources.”
The state land board Monday also approved FWP purchasing land for two new fishing access sites, including 40 acres east of Thompson Falls along the Thompson River and nearly 100 acres on the West Fork of the Bitterroot River.