The State of Montana is considering a purchase of land in the southern foothills of the Big Snowy Mountains that could open up access to more than 100-thousand acres of public land. The 56-hundred-acre Big Snowy Mountains Ranch was donated to Shodair Children's Hospital when its owner died.

Craig Aasved, C-E-O of the hospital, said the hospital has been looking to sell the property. "We knew we would likely not hold onto that property," he told Public News Service, "but what was most important to us is selling that property...to a buyer that would make it public for citizens of Montana."

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has concluded an environmental assessment of the proposal to purchase the property, which would be known as the Big Snowy Mountains Wildlife Management Area, and recommended that the state proceed with the purchase, concluding that it wouldn't have any negative impacts. During the Public Comment Period, which was March 24 through April 25, 107 comments were received from individuals and organizations, and all but three were in favor of the aquisition. Those opposed to the proposal raised concerns about noise, increased risk of fire because of human use in the area and loss of grazing, and all of the concerns expressed are addressed in the final impact statement, which can be read HERE.

The document concludes, "FWP is proposing this acquisition for the benefit of conserving native habitats and dedicating this unique property to wintering big game and a variety of other wildlife benefits. The grassland habitats would be enhanced through a prescribed grazing system which would also benefit an area rancher. As proposed, the property also would be open for public hunting and various forms of wildlife-compatible recreation."

It's up to the Fish & Wildlife Commission and State Lands Board to decide whether to move forward with the purchase and negotiate a price.

For reference, the original Draft EAS is available HERE.