Elk NetworkA Big Celebration in Montana’s Big Hole

General | July 18, 2023

Conservation partners gathered in a breathtaking meadow overlooking Seymour Creek and the Big Hole River Valley on July 13th to celebrate the dedication of the Seymour Creek – Big Hole River Project. This 3,649 acre ranch situated in Montana’s Beaverhead and Deerlodge Counties has been mindfully managed by a multigenerational ranching family for decades before being passed into the public’s hands.

RMEF helped the BLM purchase the parcel using the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a fund sourced from royalties from offshore drilling revenue that supports the protection and public access of land, water and other natural areas. This is one of the 75 acquisitions and 76,000 acres of public access insured in Montana by LWCF. Funding was also provided by RMEF, Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Conservation Alliance.

Around 250 elk utilize the land for calving and winter range. Sagebrush, broad grassland meadows, coniferous forests, ponds, springs, aspen stands and wetlands cover the property, providing prime elk habitat as well as a home for mule deer, pronghorn, moose, black bears, wolverines and other wildlife.

Both the Big Hole River and Seymour Creek flow through the parcel for approximately two miles, supporting numerous aquatic species including the last wild population of fluvial arctic grayling in the Lower 48. The waters also serve as a critical linkage corridor between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Northern Continental Divide for grizzly bear and Canada lynx.

RMEF successfully purchased the parcel in November of 2022 and immediately conveyed it to the BLM to manage. It provides new public access and improves access to surrounding lands administered by the BLM, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Mount Haggin Wildlife Management Area and more.

Moving forward, the BLM will be busy working on managing the water rights, making travel management decisions, considering habitat improvement projects and implementing grazing practices on the land, said Lindsey Babcock, BLM Butte field office manager.

Not only does the Seymour Creek-Big Hole River land conservation project secure outstanding and diverse public access for hunters, anglers, hikers and other recreationalists, but the scale of the project makes it a landscape success story for the Big Hole Valley.

“We applaud the traditional Montana ranching family and the BLM for working with us to conserve this land,” said Jenn Doherty, RMEF director of lands and access. “The opportunities for continued wildlife and fisheries habitat management in this watershed is amplified significantly by today’s success.”