The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a major player in a proposed lower Musselshell River access project that if approved would tap the Land and Water Conservation Fund to consolidate 39,130 acres of BLM land that abuts the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and also expand public access to 8,040 acres of BLM land and 1,320 acres of State Trust lands now inaccessible to the public.
A Brett French Lee Newspaper article reports the project includes public acquisition of over 11,000 acres of private land owned by Craig and Barbara Egeland, of Rhame, North Dakota, and the 73 Ranch & Hunt Club. An environmental assessment on the project is ongoing, and public comments are being taken.
From the article:
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, based in Missoula, has stepped in to facilitate the land deal. Michael Mueller, senior lands program manager for RMEF, called the proposal an important project. “This is a state and national priority for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation” because of its tremendous wildlife habitat and fishery, he said.
“We are asking for support to get it across the finish line,” Mueller added.
“Acquisition of the lands would facilitate a variety of public recreational activities including hunting, fishing, boating, camping, hiking and wildlife viewing on additional public and state lands that were historically inaccessible to the public,” the BLM’s environmental assessment stated.
In addition to this deal, the EA noted the “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pursuing an acquisition of approximately 756 acres (290 acres in Petroleum County, 466 acres in Garfield County) of privately owned land along the Musselshell River within the current CMR Refuge boundary.” These are adjacent lands also owned by the Egelands, according to Paul Santavy, project leader of the refuge.
Garfield County Commissioners support the proposal, while Petroleum County Commissioners oppose the project based on a $420 annual reduction in county tax payments.