In 2008, the Bair Ranch Foundation (TBRF) contacted the US Forest Service and suggested a public purchase of the Bair Ranch Foundation Property. To accomplish this historic conservation effort a model partnership was soon formed between TBRF, the US Forest Service, the Tenderfoot Trust and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. The 8,200-acre Tenderfoot Creek acquisition has received support from the Meagher County Commissioners, Montana’s Governor, MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and over 30 local Montana sportsman and angler conservation groups. The project has also received financial support from the Elk Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, MT Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Trust, Cinnabar Foundation and other RMEF Habitat Partners.
The Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Tenderfoot Trust, a grass-roots volunteer group, have formed a coalition and are working together to acquire the Tenderfoot lands. The conservation partners are contributing substantial private funding toward the Tenderfoot purchases, which includes funds from the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Cinnabar Foundation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
The offered lands are located in the Tenderfoot Creek drainage, which flows into the nationally-recognized Smith River, a highly popular floating and fishing stream, within the heart of the historic Lewis & Clark National Forest, in Meagher County, Montana.The lands are located approximately 35 miles northwest of White Sulphur Springs in the Tenderfoot watershed of the Little Belt Mountains within the boundary of the Lewis and Clark National Forest.
Remarkably diverse, the lands being acquired provide a rich mixture of savannah, forest and riparian wildlife habitats, linking high sub-alpine forests to the valley bottom of the Smith River. This phased acquisition will conserve key cold-water habitat for native west slope cutthroat trout, identified by the Forest Service and cooperating federal and state agencies and landowners as a "Sensitive Species", which is at risk due to restricted range and considered vulnerable to extinction. Acquiring these intermingled private lands will maintain an outstanding natural setting and conserve valuable habitats for elk, moose, deer, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, mountain lion and numerous other native species.
The 20,000-acre Tenderfoot watershed presently consists of intermingled private, State of Montana and National Forest System lands. Except for a few small homestead parcels, all the private lands are owned and offered by The Bair Ranch Foundation for consolidation into public ownership. The offered lands span over 3,200 feet in elevation, from sub-alpine mountain ridges and productive forests, to grass meadows and riparian areas, down to the Smith River. This purchase will protect the integrity of this entire landscape as undeveloped forest land, grasslands, and public space.
The Tenderfoot Land Acquisition is an on-going phased acquisition. Seven phased purchases have been completed in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, using LWCF and contributed non-federal funds. Of the 8,220 total acres, 6,335 acres have been acquired through September, 2013. The goal shared by all partners is to complete the final Phase 8 purchase of 1,885 acres in 2014 or 2015.
Maps of the project area:
Grayscale map showing the public access and public lands in the Tenderfoot area as of September 1, 2013 (330k, pdf).
Color map showing the public access as well as past and future proposed acquisitions through this Tenderfoot Acquisition project (546k, pdf).