PPLT working with Fort Harrison to acquire nearly 1,500 acres for conservation

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Posted at 5:34 PM, May 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-16 11:42:39-04

HELENA — Prickly Pear Land Trust together with Fort Harrison is currently working on a conservation project that, if passed, would help conserve Birdseye Ranch.

“We’ve been partnering with the Montana Army National Guard on projects like this since 2015. And it’s one of the best partners, proudest partners, and just pure joy working with them,” says Mary Hollow, Executive Director of PPLT.

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On April 18, the Lewis and Clark County Commission opened a 30-day comment period to allow PPLT to use $1 million from the county’s open space bond to purchase nearly 1,500 acres of land in the Birdseye area.

This land sits adjacent to Fort Harrison. The Department of Defense would pay for part of the land through their ACUB (Army Compatible Use Buffer) Program. Other money would come from the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust. PPLT would provide an in-kind donation of all project management services.

Colonel Kelly Traynham, Construction and Facilities Management Officer for the Montana Army National Guard, says securing this property is about maintaining the fort’s ability to operate as usual without disturbing property owners if the area was turned over to developers.

“More houses, more neighbors could restrict on what we could do, how we can train, and maybe possibly even hours we could train. So, this, by having this in open space, allows us to continue our 24/7 training mission that we have,” says Traynham.

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Having partnered together on multiple projects in the past such as the Ten Mile and Seven Mile projects, Hollow is excited for this renewed invigoration of a similar goal.

“The state is changing really rapidly and in the face of that change it’s really important that we protect land at great rates right now if we’re going to accomplish the basic objectives for things like wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation and agriculture economy of scales,” says Hollow.

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If acquired, Hollow says this land has the potential for grazing and public access. The comment period ends May 20 and the Commission will vote on May 21.