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Land Board approves donation to Missouri Headwaters State Park

At their March meeting, the Montana Land Board approved the donation of 26.36 acres to the Missouri Headwaters State Park near Three Forks.

The land was donated to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) by the Montana State Parks Foundation (MSPF) to preserve cultural resources, safeguard history, revitalize fish and wildlife habitat, and enhance recreational opportunities.

The MSPF purchased the private land with funds provided by a grant from Montana's Outdoor Legacy Foundation and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust. The Montana State Parks and Recreation Board also approved the donation at their February meeting, allowing FWP to accept the 26.36 acres in fee title.

A fundraising event to help raise money for the expansion to clean up the land and improve and enhance it for public use is scheduled for this week in Three Forks.

The MSPF is hosting an event on Thursday, April 11, from 5 p.m. at Sawdust and Steel Brewing at 123 W. Elm.

The fundraiser will include a Missouri Headwaters and Montana-themed trivia night, prizes and giveaways, a silent auction, and a food truck. $1 from each beer sold will be donated to the fundraiser.

In November of 2023, FWP solicited public comments on the draft environmental assessment for the land acquisition.

According to the draft, the purchase would permanently secure and protect important habitat and cultural resources on the property and protect Missouri Headwaters State Park by securing the important inholding and preventing other types of development that could adversely affect the park.

The EA describes the land as mixed wetland and riparian areas, grasses, shrubs, and some timber. The property also includes a historic barn from the era of Gallatin City II, established in the 1860s, and one of the Gallatin Valley's earliest settlements.

According to the draft, FWP and the property owners, the Hart family, have been speaking for several years about their mutual desire for FWP to purchase the property to safeguard the habitat, riparian, cultural, and recreational values of the property and Missouri Headwaters State Park.

The first project objective listed in the draft states the property acquisition would protect the heart of Missouri Headwaters State Park.

"Ownership by someone other than the Harts or a public land management agency could drastically alter the look and use of the property, which could result in significant adverse impacts on the habitat, riparian, recreational, and cultural resources of the adjacent MHSP depending on the venture" states the Draft EA.

The second objective states the project would protect the cultural resources and enhance interpretive opportunities in the area.

The draft states that the land encompassing MHSP has been an important site for Indigenous peoples for thousands of years and a vital crossroads for non-Indigenous traders and settlers since Lewis and Clark first passed through in 1805.

The third objective of the proposed project would be to protect and restore riparian and upland habitats. The acquisition would help preserve habitat for these species and others in perpetuity and provide wildlife-based recreation for the public, including hunting, fishing, viewing, and photography.

The final project objective is to protect and improve recreational opportunities, including public access to 26 additional acres, additional access to trails, and additional opportunities for hunting and fishing.