HELENA — American Prairie announced Tuesday the purchase of the 73 Ranch, located along the eastern side of the Musselshell River in Garfield and Petroleum Counties, for an undisclosed amount.
The Bureau of Land Management had attempted to make a bid for the property earlier this year, but that deal ultimately fell through.
The 32,003-acre property comprises 12,233 deeded acres and 19,770 leased acres. It is situated along the southern border of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. 73 Ranch has high value to American Prairie and its mission due to the abundant wildlife habitat that supports populations of elk, mule deer, pronghorn, turkeys, pheasants, and waterfowl.
“We did not want to lose a rare opportunity to both conserve critical wildlife habitat and be able to share this special place with the public,” said Damien Austin, Superintendent for American Prairie. “We negotiated fair market value for the property and will pay property taxes that support our local communities just as we do with all our properties.”
American Prairie says they intend to produce a public access plan in the next year to spell out recreational uses, including hunting, on deeded acres, and to open the 9,300 acres of state and federal public lands that were previously inaccessible.
The management plan will include hunting opportunities similar to how American Prairie manages public hunts on its other wildlife-rich properties such as Blue Ridge, White Rock, and the PN.
“As we’ve done with past land acquisitions, we need to first take time to familiarize ourselves with the property prior to welcoming the public,” said American Prairie CEO Alison Fox in a press release. “We are thrilled to add the 73 to American Prairie, knowing it creates a valuable opportunity to increase access to public lands, and we know recreationists will be eager to explore the property.”
American Prairie says this latest acquisition brings their total deeded and leased property to more than 450,000 acres. Fox noted the acquisition will boost American Prairie’s efforts to connect a vast network of existing public lands.
“We are very excited to add the 73 to the habitat base already stewarded by American Prairie, for the benefit of wildlife and people in perpetuity,” said Fox. “This purchase will further our mission to grow a contiguous habitat area, which is essential to restoring ecosystem biodiversity on the prairie.”
The acquisition of 73 Ranch by American Prairie is supported by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Montana Wildlife Federation and The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.