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Forest Service land buy in Highlands secures access and habitat
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Forest Service land buy in Highlands secures access and habitat

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Moose Creek Headwaters property

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest recently acquired a 160-acre parcel in the Highlands south of Butte to allow public access and protect habitat.

A recent land acquisition by the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in the Highland Mountains provides additional public access and protects valuable  habitat from “the ever-increasing encroachment of residential subdivisions.”

That’s according to the U.S. Forest Service and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, which purchased the 160-acre parcel of private land about 15 miles south of Butte.

The acquisition should be good news for recreationists, migratory songbirds, mountain grouse, black bear, moose, mule deer and elk, the agency said.

The deal closed April 19. The Forest Service tapped money from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to buy the Moose Creek Headwaters property from the Brownell and Rosati families. The purchase price was $422,750, the agency said.

Butte District Ranger Tim Lahey said the acquisition is a wonderful addition to the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, which covers 3.35 million acres and is described as Montana’s largest national forest.

“The public will enjoy this new Forest Service land for generations to come,” Lahey said. “I would like to extend gratitude to the sellers for recognizing the value of placing this land in public ownership and the Forest Service staff that helped to make it happen.”

Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1964 to help safeguard natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage and to provide recreational opportunities. Earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing pay for the program.

The Forest Service said the 160-acre parcel will improve public access for hunting, fishing and other recreational opportunities, as well as secure habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife species.

The headwaters of Moose Creek flow through the property before draining into the Big Hole River south of Divide. The Forest Service said acquisition of the parcel helps conserve wetlands, riparian habitat and stretches of both perennial and intermittent streams.

The 160 acres will be incorporated into the surrounding Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

In September, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation had reported it was working to purchase an adjoining tract of 300 acres of private land. But that property sold before the foundation had a chance to acquire it, said Mike Mueller, senior lands program manager for the Elk Foundation. 

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