The Great Falls, Montana chapter of Safari Club International joined with Lewis and Clark County Open Lands Program, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Bass Pro Shops, The Conservation Fund, The Conservation Alliance and the Mule Deer Foundation in a project to purchase 442 acres of private land containing prime wildlife and riparian habitat.
Called the Falls Creek project, the purchase not only transfers prime wildlife habitat to the public, it also improves access to more than 26,000 acres of public land containing prime elk habitat beyond the 442-acre parcel. The joint venture was coordinated with Lewis and Clark County, the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest and the Dan Barrett family and coordinated through the efforts of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), headquartered in Missoula, Montana.
SCI Chapter Board Members, Brad Lencioni, Terry Ehrhardt and Rick Vukasin attended the dedication on Tuesday, August 27, 2019. Over 100 people attended the dedication and official opening of the Falls Creek area to the public, including U.S. Senator Steve Daines.
The project had a target of raising $2.5 million dollars and did so in time for the 2019 general big game hunting season, a remarkable feat thanks to the coordination of everyone involved.
The property is primarily forestland and grassy meadows located approximately 30 miles southwest of Augusta, a small town located in central-west Montana. Considered a gateway to the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Lewis and Clark National Forest, the land provides habitat for elk, whitetail deer, grizzly and black bears and mountain lions, according to Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “It’s also important spring, summer and fall range for elk in a hunting district (HD 422) where the population is well over objective, in part, because gaining access has been so difficult for a long time,” said Henning.
The previously inaccessible Falls Creek trailhead and trail opened to the public on August 28 and will provide access for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, horseback riding and other non-motorized travel and recreational use.