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Land Board approves purchase of Bad Rock Wildlife Management Area

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | November 15, 2021 10:50 AM

The state Land Board Monday approved the purchase of the Bad Rock Wildlife Management area near Columbia Falls.

The Flathead Land Trust and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks together worked to broker the deal to purchase 772 acres of land along the Flathead River just east of Columbia Falls owned by the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co.

It’s one of the largest intact riverfront properties in the Flathead Valley and home to a host of wildlife and fish. FWP will own the land and manage it as a Wildlife Management Area. WMAs have specific rules and regulations meant to protect wildlife.

“A lot of different folks made this possible,” Laura Katzman, land protection specialist for the Trust said Monday.

Katzman said 11 local organizations, including the Trust and the Flathead Lakers supported the project as well 250 individual donors, some of which gave as much as $75,000 toward the purchase. The Trust and the Lakers both gave multiple tours of the project over the past couple of years to showcase it to the public and donors.

It also had the support of government entities like the City of Columbia Falls and Flathead County Commissioners.

All told, the local organizations and individuals contributed $315,000 toward the local match, Katzman noted. The Trust also received $175,000 from the Montana FWP Conservation Fund and $100,000 from Heart of the Rockies, supported by the Kendeda Fund.

The appraised value of the land is $7.26 million.

The project also received significant federal and state funding.

Funding sources include $4 million from the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, which is funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, $2.5 million from FWP’s Habitat Montana program and the local match.

The land board vote was unanimous.

The expectation is FWP will close before the end of the year. It will not open to public use until May 15, as it’s valuable winter range for deer and elk.

Hunting in some capacity will be allowed on the property. Currently, FWP, through an agreement with CFAC, allows youth hunting on the land, which is home to old growth cottonwoods and mature conifer trees.

It has a plethora of bird species, including nesting bald eagles.

The Gateway to Glacier Trail Group has been working on a biking hiking path on the property.

With the Bad Rock Canyon project, 12,600 acres are protected through the work of the Trust and others through its River to Lake Initiative, which includes 30% of the main channel of the Flathead River, 58% of the quality riparian areas, 58% of the lands overlying shallow groundwater, 56% of the wetlands, and 43% of the 100-year floodplain in that focus area.

 “We can’t thank our partners and the community enough for their incredible support for the project. We owe a debt of gratitude to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks for their amazing work to get this project to the finish line as well as to the Flathead Lakers for their fundraising support and to the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co./Glencore, for giving us the opportunity to purchase and conserve this amazing property for the benefit of the community for generations to come,” Katzman said.

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