Access in the Crazy Mountains of south-central Montana has been a problem for many decades, but this week Montana hunters, anglers, and recreational users gained another access point into a key area.
The state Land Board gave final approval to an easement agreement with the Lewis and Clark National Forest and the McFarland-White Ranch along Big Elk Creek in the northeast corner of the Crazies. The agreement establishes an easement across the private lands on the ranch that is open to horse and foot traffic, as well as administrative use for management by the Forest Service.
The ranch, owned by Mac White, will gain access to its lands that are mixed with the Forest Service parcels in a checkerboarded pattern. The issue of access to the area has been disputed for well over a decade.
The three-mile easement will cross one section of state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation land and two miles of the McFarland-White Ranch. It gains about 400 feet of elevation over that distance.
Once on the National Forest, the area offers excellent hunting opportunities for elk, mule deer, and black bears, as well as mountain grouse. It also has a fishery on Big Elk Creek. The agreement calls for the state DNRC to build a parking area in the northeast corner of its section, which sits along a county road.
This access will require some sweat equity to get to the public land. But it also opens up some incredible opportunity in an area that was previously inaccessible.
The Montana Wildlife Federation testified in support of the agreement this week before the Board. We thank the Board, the Lewis and Clark National Forest, state DNRC and the McFarland-White Ranch for working to create this new access point into the north Crazies. It’s just another step in our efforts to improve public access into the Crazies and expand public hunting, fishing, and recreation in this incredible area.