Hunters from the Glendive area gathered to celebrate 20,000 acres of new public hunting access through the Horse Creek Complex conservation easement.
A crowd packed the Cross Country Brewing Company in Glendive to thank the Stenson family for the project, which protects more than 15,000 acres of their cattle ranch near Wibaux. Taken together with the adjoining public lands, the project opens up nearly 20,000 acres that offer prime hunting opportunity for mule deer, antelope, and upland birds.
Conservation easements are one of our most important private land tools to preserve valuable habitat. They restrict subdivision and housing development while allowing a landowner to continue to raise crops or livestock. In addition, easements held by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks include a public hunting access component.
Horse Creek was needlessly held up for months by state Land Board members Matt Rosendale, Corey Stapleton and Elsie Arntzen, but was ultimately approved last month when Gov. Steve Bullock determined that easements do not require board approval. The project was unanimously supported by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Horse Creek was paid for with Habitat Montana dollars. The program uses a small portion of hunting license fees to fund targeted land purchases, conservation easements, and fishing access sites. It has a tremendous record of success in conserving key wildlife habitat and opening more lands to public hunting. The project drew broad support from hunting and conservation groups including the Montana Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, Montana Mule Deer Foundation, Montana Bowhunters Association, Montana Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Montana Wild Sheep Foundation, Montana Trout Unlimited, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, National Wildlife Federation and the Montana Sportsman’s Alliance.