The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously late last week to try and acquire over 5,000 acres of prime elk habitat just north of Yellowstone National Park.
Specifically, officials are looking to purchase Dome Mountain Ranch, located between Emigrant and Jardine.
Last week, we reported the Commission was weighing whether to try expand the Dome Mountain Wilderness Management Area, which currently measures 4,866 acres. If the sale happens, the management area would swell to 10,232 acres.
Elk currently use the Dome Mountain Ranch area, so acquiring it for elk habitat makes perfect sense.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the Commission’s vote means the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks agency can undertake a property appraisal and environmental analysis. The group can also start looking at fund options for making the purchase. From the Chronicle:
Nothing is guaranteed, and it could be a while before the deal is done, but commissioners said Thursday they want to see it happen.
“I’ve thought oftentimes that this would be one of the most incredible pieces of property that you could buy for Montanans,” said Dan Vermillion, the chair of the commission.
The ranch, which has been for sale for a few years, consists of 5,366 acres. It includes a few lakes, plenty of grassland and more than four miles of Yellowstone River frontage. The asking price listed on fayranches.com is $25 million.
What the state will pay for the property isn’t clear. The price will be set by a property appraisal, and conservation groups may kick in some money to help the state shoulder the cost.
Several conservation groups have signaled their approval of the process; Mike Mueller, lands program manager for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, told the Chronicle his group thinks the purchase would not only benefit Yellowstone elk but also help preserve the scenery, since much of Dome Mountain Ranch is visible from the road.
Pat Byroth of Trout Unlimited also signaled his organization’s approval, since the purchase would open up more of the Yellowstone River to the public and (possibly) lessen pressure from wading anglers.