MISSOULA, Mont. — A 10-mile stretch of critical elk and riparian habitat highlighted by Wyoming’s scenic Grand Canyon of the Black Hills is now permanently protected. The accomplishment represents a collaborative effort between landowners, Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments (OSLI) and State Forestry, and conservation organizations including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
The transaction also opens public access to the 4,350-acre property and improves access to more than 8,000 acres of adjacent public land.
“This is absolutely amazing country,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO, “We express our recognition and appreciation to a willing landowner and the multiple agency and private partners involved in the conservation of this incredible landscape.”
The property is bisected by the Grand Canyon of the Black Hills, a picturesque landscape with limestone cliffs, caves, ledges and a natural bridge. It lies in the western Black Hills near the Wyoming-South Dakota border and features nearly 17 miles of streams as well as springs, marshes, wetlands and riparian habitat. It also provides vital winter range for elk, whitetail and mule deer, and habitat for bighorn sheep, wild turkey and a wide variety of birds and animal life.
“It is gratifying to know that future generations will be able to enjoy the pristine beauty of this magnificent canyon. I’m thankful for the effort by all parties to make this happen and is a legacy that everyone should be proud of,” said Mike Frey, former landowner who remained steadfast in his vision through a lengthy process to conserve the property.
The acquisition will knit together a continuous protected landscape extending 43 miles across Wyoming and South Dakota. OSLI will assume ownership and management under the terms of the National Forest Legacy Program.
“This acquisition presented a unique opportunity to partner with the U.S. Forest Service to provide the citizens of Wyoming and the Trust Beneficiaries with a property that increases both access and revenue generation,” said Jessica Murkin, OSLI real estate analyst. “We are grateful for the opportunity and pleased to have assisted in the successful completion of the project.”
"We are glad that we were able to work with the US Forest Service, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and our other partners to secure the Forest Legacy grant that helped make this acquisition possible,” said Bill Crapser, Wyoming state forester. “Not only will it be a great asset for recreation, but will ensure the traditional uses of forest management and grazing remain priorities for the property."
RMEF helped obtain the Forest Legacy and other grants, facilitated due diligence and contributed funding via its Torstenson Family Endowment. Wyoming State Forestry, The Nature Conservancy and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department also played key roles in the grant process and participated in project planning and promotion. Wyoming OSLI, the National Forest Legacy Program and Moskee Land Corporation contributed extraordinary effort and resources to complete the deal. Other funders and partners include the Black Hills National Forest, Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, National Wild Turkey Federation and the Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Coalition.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded more than 35 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of nearly 235,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 7.9 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” atrmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.