FWP commission approves Big Belt land purchase

The FWP commission has given its approval to purchasing 5,000 acres in the Big Belt Mountains near Helena. The purchase could provide public access in a hunt unit where the elk population is over objective.

The purchase still has a long way to go, including appraisals and, finally, State Land Board approval. The the approval process for state land purchases has been cast in turmoil recently with the governor taking the attorney general to court regarding a legal opinion on conservation easement.

AG says Gov’s easement approval ignores law

Attorney General Tim Fox has issued an opinion that Gov. Steve Bullock ignored the law when he approved a conservation easement on an eastern Montana ranch after the State Land Board had voted 3-2 against the deal.

According to the AG's opinion, the state must secure Land Board approval for any conversation easement of more than 100 acres or $100,000. The opinion carries the force of law unless it is overturned in court, but does not hove direct impact on the already approved easement.

Bullock allowed FWP to move ahead with the $6.1 million easement purchase on the 15,000-acre Horse Creek Conservation Easement near Wibaux.