The Bureau of Land Management has agreed to purchase a 652-acre piece of property within the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument from a conservation group that acquired the land from private owners.
Gates Watson of The Conservation Fund said the group bought the land from the Brink family that was homestead by Nellie (Brink) Whitcraft in 1925.
“It’s been for sale for some time,” said Watson. “We started talking with the BLM and Brink family last year.”
He said the family’s real estate agent started seeking other buyers after failing to interest an adjacent landowner in the property. Watson said the BLM is buying the land from the conservation group for $425,000, or about $652 an acre.
Monument manager Gary Slagel on Tuesday signed off on the agreement to buy the land in Fergus County from the conservation group. The conservation group is holding the land until the BLM can write a check.
Friends of the Missouri River Breaks supported the deal.
“The public right to access is now protected,” said Hugo Tureck, a Friends board member.
The property is along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the Nez Perce Historic Trail, and near the Judith Landing on the Missouri River. It’s surrounded by state and federal land between the Judith River and Arrow Creek, with some river frontage.
The 590-square-mile monument was created in 2001 by President Bill Clinton. The monument follows the only free-flowing part of the Missouri River along the route explored by Lewis and Clark in the early 1800s.
The BLM did an environmental assessment while considering the land purchase. The assessment found that “adjacent public land receives substantial recreation use, especially by outfitters, probably because it is easily accessible from the river and is secluded, shady and close to the boat launch at Judith Landing. The adjacent state of Montana land has a frequently used undeveloped camp site referred to as Flat Rock (or the Wagon Bed).”
People opposed to the BLM purchasing the land said government shouldn’t acquire land and were concerned about tax losses.
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