The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission is eying an expansion of elk habitat just north of Yellowstone National Park.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Montana FWP officials want to add 5,366 acres to the Dome Mountain Wildlife Management Area, located near the Paradise Valley. The addition would more than double the Dome Mountain parcel, which currently measures 4,866 acres. The purchase would expand Dome Mountain to 10,232 acres.
Earlier this year, we reported more elk have been migrating into Montana out of Yellowstone during the winter. Indeed, Montana FWP habitat bureau chief Rick Northrup told the Chronicle that the Dome Mountain Area is popular with wintering elk:
“It’s important to the state of Montana because of the importance it plays in elk winter range,” Northrup said.
Northrup did not know what the land might cost, saying a property appraisal would come later — assuming the commission endorses the project. After an endorsement, he said, it could take a year for the state to finalize the details.
In addition to a property appraisal, the state would need to do an environmental analysis and secure funding for the project. He said the money will likely come partially from the Habitat Montana Fund and from private partners. And after all that, they have to make sure the landowner is OK with what the state has to offer.
“We are early in the process,” Northrup said.
Still, Northrup and the agency are excited about the prospect of adding to the Dome Mountain Wildlife Management Area. Located along the east side of U.S. Highway 89 at the southern end of the Paradise Valley, the land offers habitat for a variety of wildlife species, most notably the elk that migrate between Yellowstone National Park and the Paradise Valley.
Northrup says purchasing the land would ensure elk always have access to the region and would offer them more space outside Yellowstone National Park. Nick Gevok, conservation director for the Montana Wildlife Federation, told the Chronicle he believed hunters would benefit as well.
According to the Chronicle, other FWP officials say expanding elk habitat outside Yellowstone would benefit the Northern Range (habitually overgrazed) and could aid wildlife managers in their efforts to curb brucellosis in elk. From the Chronicle:
Dan Vermillion, the chair of the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission, said he thinks the commission will support the deal. He said the addition will help the state’s efforts at reducing the risk of brucellosis transmission from elk to cattle and secure important habitat for deer and elk.
“There is an acute need for winter range for the elk and deer and the wildlife in the Paradise Valley and northern Yellowstone National Park,” Vermillion said.