Another elk winter range access point in the Big Hole Valley of southwestern Montana has been secured for the public by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). A 40-acre area was moved from private ownership to BLM management.

The chunk of land was surrounded on three sides by BLM land and the access allows a connection of winter range for elk, mule deer and moose, according to officials. The property is about 10 miles northwest of the town of Wise River in the Fleecer Mountains. BLM Western District manager Lindsey Babcock said in a news release, "The Johnson Creek acquisition will maintain important habitat connectivity for wildlife and improved public land access for recreationists."

The property allows access to about 12,000 acres of public lands managed by BLM, the U.S. Forest Service and the State of Montana, including Hunting District 319. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has had success with several land conservation projects in the Big Hole Valley.

Landowners John Webster and Jennifer Gilchrist said, "Wildlife habitat continues to be under increased development pressure in southwest Montana and we wanted to make sure this piece of land stayed the way it was."

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Kyle Weaver of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation said, "No matter the size, every piece of elk habitat counts. And protecting this small parcel keeps the landscape intact."

New FWP Elk Plan

In a separate development involving the state's elk, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is working on a new Elk Management Plan. FWP director Hank Worsech said recent ideas may help the state deal with management challenges such as elk herd size, disease concerns, crowded public lands, and more access.

FWP will use results from the Elk Management Plan Initial Guidance Citizens Group from 2020 and will also be looking at elk hunting access agreements. And there are over 450 of those access deals throughout Montana. A new Elk Management Citizen Advisory Group will be created as part of the plan. They're hoping to have a new elk management plan by the summer of 2023. Need more information about elk? Check the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation website or the FWP website.

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