Bitterroot National Forest adds 120 acres to Bass Creek Recreation Area

    The Bitterroot National Forest partnered with several conservation groups and Farmers State Bank in acquisition of land adjacent to one of the most popular recreation areas in the region. It will allow public use of what had been a private landholding that had been considered for development.

    Through a public-private partnership the Bitterroot National Forest has acquired 120 acres of open space adjacent to the Bass Creek Recreation Area.

    On Wednesday evening the Forest Service and several conservation groups unveiled the sign that will be placed on site.

    The property is surrounded on three sides by the Bitterroot National Forest.

    Conservation groups celebrated the dedication of the addition to a recreation area that attracts 60,000 visitors a year.

    It's popular with hikers, horseback riders and bicyclists. It attracts a great many visitors from the Missoula and Bitterroot Valleys.

    "The area is extremely popular for year-round recreation," said Stevensville District Ranger Tami Sabol.

    "It's huge for environmental education," she said. "In the spring we get over 650 students to talk about Leave No Trace, bear awareness, plant identification and forestry."

    The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's senior lands program manager, Mike Mueller, said several hundred elk and mule deer use the area.

    "We have some really high quality wildlife habitat and some beautiful open spaces," he said. "And the most important thing about this project is we can serve this 120 acres that will now be open to public access."

    The Elk Foundation said the "project received broad public support."

    The Foundation has a chapter 25 miles to the north in Missoula and 25 miles to the south in Hamilton.

    The area is low elevation and easily accessible to all age groups.

    The land had been considered as a residential subdivision. But several groups joined the Forest Service in purchasing the land from Farmers State Bank.

    Partners to Farmers State Bank include the National Wild Turkey Federation, Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Bitter Root Back Country Horsemen, the Bitterroot National Forest and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

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