GOLDEN VALLEY COUNTY — Montanans are passionate about access to public lands. That access became wide open spaces on May 15, 2023, as the Big Snowy Mountains opened through a new access point for the first time.
A total of 5,600 acres, a gift from Forest Allen, a World War II veteran and sheep rancher, who gifted his family ranch to Shodair Children’s Hospital in Helena after he passed away.
That chunk of land is enough to create a vantage point to 100,000 acres of largely untouched Montana terrain.
“The process took about three years, and it was challenging at times. You must have a lot of patience. Today driving here, it just felt weird because I've driven this road many times and I have hardly seen a vehicle,” said Craig Aasved, CEO of Shodair.
The untouched land will rather go explored as nearly 50 outdoorsmen and women took to hills to find antler sheds.
The habitat is home to deer, elk, and a plethora of pronghorn. For the time being, only a few grizzly bears have discovered the range, but according to FWP, they don’t expect many for a while.
“We created a brand-new WMA for Montanans, and these 5,600 acres are important. What’s more important is the 100,000 acres of public land behind here that we now have access to, through Mr. Allen's generosity,” shared Governor Greg Gianforte.
The effort to open this plot of land for public access came from the help from numerous agencies including Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, Montana Fish & Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Pittman-Robertson Excise Taxes, and Shodair Children’s Hospital, and the backing of the State of Montana Governor’s Office.
Montana Tribal leaders also played a vital role in contributing to the WMA including the Blackfeet Nation, the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and the Crow Tribe.
Big Snowy Mountains WMA is open from May 15 at 12pm each year and closes on December 1. Coordinates to the access point are: 46°37'16.2"N 109°13'13.8"W
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