Elk NetworkBitterroot Trails – onX Public Access Project

onX Public Access | February 2, 2023


Sprawling developments can have major negative consequences for wildlife and public access.

In western Montana between Missoula and Hamilton in the Bitterroot Valley, you’ll find the Bass Creek Recreation Area – a swath of land used by about 60,000 people annually for hunting, fishing, camping and other recreational activities.

In 2018, a bank foreclosed on 120 acres of land immediately north of the recreation area surrounded on three sides by the Bitterroot National Forest, but also a five-acre subdivision immediately to the east.

The goal was to sell it on the private market.

If that happened, the forest could have been bound to build a road through the property to grant permanent motorized access.

Instead, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners got word and took action.

In a speedy collaborative effort, the group raised funding, bought the property and conveyed it to the Bitterroot National Forest, which then added it to the Bass Creek Recreation Area.

The transaction conserved important elk and mule deer winter range that’s also home to whitetail deer, turkey and other fish and wildlife.

And it merged existing federal ownership, supplied important connectivity across the Bass Creek, Larry Creek and Sweeney Creek drainages, opened public access to the new property and improved access to the surrounding public land – a win for elk, other wildlife, multiple-use recreation and access.