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Tenderfoot Creek Area Land Purchase
8,200 Acre Public Land Access Opportunity

Tenderfoot Creek Land Acquisition

A tremendous opportunity exists in Montana. The Bair Ranch Foundation, a philanthropic Montana foundation, is offering 8,220 acres of its private lands near the Smith River for permanent public access and enjoyment, and to conserve natural resources and traditional land uses. Up to this point, the Foundation has chosen not to sell the property to private parties, since that action may jeopardize public access to thousands of acres of intermingled National Forest lands.

In 2009, the landowners granted an exclusive Option to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. The Option allows for purchase in three phases at the approved appraised value. The Option expires in 2013. Timing and the ability to obtain funding will be key factors in successfully placing these lands in public ownership.

The offered lands are located in the Tenderfoot Creek drainage, which flows into the nationally-recognized Smith River, a highly popular floating and fishing stream, within the heart of the historic Lewis & Clark National Forest, in Meagher County, Montana.

The Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Tenderfoot Trust, a grass-roots volunteer group, have formed a coalition and are working together to acquire the Tenderfoot lands.

Remarkably diverse, the Tenderfoot lands span 3,200 feet in elevation from sub-alpine mountains to grass meadows and riparian areas. The lands provide high quality water and fisheries habitat including west slope cutthroat trout, habitat for elk, moose, deer and a multitude of species, scenic views, and extraordinary opportunities for people to enjoy the Tenderfoot area for recreation, including, hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, managed ATV use, snowmobiling and other uses.

This purchase would protect access to thousands of acres of public land that are currently intermingled with or accessible only through Bair Ranch lands. Blocking up ownership would facilitate conservation of critically important fish and wildlife habitat. The Tenderfoot watershed is perhaps the most critical tributary of the Smith River recreational corridor. Overall, because of the access it provides and the habitat it secures, this acquisition will be enormously valuable to Montana’s hunters and anglers.

The Tenderfoot is identified as one of the more important “bread and butter” hunting and fishing areas in Montana by 43 sportsmen’s club in the Montana Sportsmen Mapping Project. It ranks in importance to hunters and anglers with the public lands neighboring the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.

Broad Public Support

Recognizing the outstanding public values and the serious risk of losing public access in the Tenderfoot area, the Meagher County Commissioners, Governor Brian Schweitzer, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and numerous sportsmen’s and conservation groups (listed below) are strongly supporting the Tenderfoot land acquisition.

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Montana Audubon Society
Trout Unlimited
Montana Wildlife Federation
Montana Wilderness Association
Backcountry Anglers
Montana River Action Network
Orion – The Hunters Institute
Public Land/Water Access Association, Inc.
Anaconda Sportsman’s Club
Billings Rod & Gun Club
Gallatin Wildlife Association
Skyline Sportsmen’s Association, Butte
Dillon Sportsman
Rosebud/Treasure Wildlife Association
Dawson County Rod & Gun Club
Electric City Archery Club, Great Falls
Great Falls Archers
Safari Club Int., Great Falls Chapter
Russell Country Sportsmen, Great Falls
Fly Fishers of the Bitterroot
Ravalli County Fish & Wildlife Association
Bear Paw Bowmen, Havre
Helena Hunters & Anglers Association
Laurel Rod & Gun Club
Libby Rod & Gun Club
Park County Rod & Gun Club
Custer Rod & Gun Club, Miles City
Big Sky Upland Bird Association, Missoula
Hellgate Hunters & Anglers, Missoula
Polson Outdoors
Broadwater Rod & Gun Club, Townsend
Jefferson Valley Sportsmen’s Association
Meagher County Sportsmen’s Association

For more information, contact: Ron Marcoux, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (406) 202-1171; Butch Marita, Tenderfoot Trust (850) 766-0960; Mitch Godfrey, Tenderfoot Trust (406) 949-1111; or Carol Hatfield, Forest Service (406) 547-3361.

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Public Land/Water Access Association Inc. or PLWA, is a citizen group organized and operated under the Montana nonprofit corporation act.

Articles and Information on this site represent the opinion of the writer and are not intended as legal advice. Legal counsel may be needed in dealing with specific access situations and issues.
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