BUTTE — A 320-acre property west of Dillon, vital to wildlife and linked to the pages of U.S. history, is now permanently protected thanks to a successful collaboration between the Forest Service, a conservation-minded family and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
The former Holland Family Ranch property is 37 miles southwest of Dillon in the northern headwaters of the Horse Prairie drainage. It was previously an in-holding in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. It lies squarely on the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, where Chief Joseph led his Nez Perce tribe away from its pursuers in 1877.
The deal gives the public access — including hunting and fishing activities — to land previously off limits. Public acquisition will help conserve open landscapes, cultural and historical features, and traditional land uses, including livestock grazing, according to a Forest Service news release issued Wednesday.
Total cost of the purchase was $1.05 million, according to the Forest Service. That breaks down to Phase 1 (2014) for $524,900, with Forest Service providing $449,900; and Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust $75,000; and Phase 2 (2016) Land and Water Conservation Fund (High Divide) $518,000; Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, $7,000; and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, $100, (contributes through helping with due diligence and administrative costs of the purchase).
The Forest Service partnered with the elk foundation, conservation trust and the Holland Ranch Company to secure the private inholding which includes the confluence of Selway Creek, Camp Creek and Bloody Dick Creeks.
“We are extremely thankful to Todd Holland and his family for their conservation ethic and for their continued dedication and patience through the purchase process,” said Dillon District Ranger Scot Shuler.
The landscape serves as an important corridor for wildlife, including elk, mule deer, moose and black bears movement between the Continental Divide and Big Hole and Horse Prairie valleys. Pronghorn antelope travel seasonally between this area and Henrys Lake. The Holland Ranch purchase includes 2.5 miles of steams with wetland and riparian habitat. It complements the 2007 Selway Valley Preserve purchase which was made in cooperation with the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust.
The acquisition protects a quarter mile High Potential Route Segment of the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail, an important cultural and historical feature. The Trail stretches more than 1,170 miles from Wallowa Lake in Oregon to the Bear Paw Battlefield near Chinook, Montana. The preservation and commemoration of the route of the Nez Perce flight ensures the history and heritage marked by this Trail is preserved.
“Following the bloody battle at Big Hole the Niimíipuu (Nez Perce) families hastily buried their dead and, led by Chief Hotóoto or Lean Elk (also known as PokerJoe), hurried south from the Big Hole Valley. The wounded suffered and several died along this section of this sacred trail,” said Nez Perce Cultural Director Nakia Williamson. “Protecting this section of the trail is very important to The People.”
Through a partnership with the High Divide Collaborative Landscape Project, the U.S. Forest Service received LWCF appropriations as well as wide support to help complete this project.
The High Divide Collaborative is a partnership of public land management agencies, state wildlife agencies, landowners, local community leaders, scientists, and conservation groups working together to protect landscape integrity, protect wildlife habitat and increase recreational opportunities. The High Divide CLP encompasses the Continental Divide along the Idaho-Montana state line and provides habitat and landscape connectivity between Greater Yellowstone west to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Idaho.
“This purchase is a perfect example of how partnerships can conserve wildlife, ecological, recreational and historic values,” said Melany Glossa, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest supervisor. “Working together with RMEF and the Holland family to be a part of this legacy has been a really wonderful experience.”