The acquisition of 4,312 acres in the Chamberlin Creek and Morrison Mountain areas was completed on Dec. 29, 2014 with $3,542,000 of Land and Water Conservation Fund appropriations. The 1,280-acre Chamberlin Creek parcel is located in the central portion of the SRMA and the 3,032-acre Morrison Mountain parcel is located within the southwestern portion of the SRMA.
Beginning in 2000, The Nature Conservancy joined with members of the Blackfoot Challenge in the Blackfoot Community Project to identify a desired conservation outcome for 89,000 acres of land owned by Plum Creek Timberlands, LLC in the Blackfoot River watershed. Purchase of the Chamberlain Creek parcel represents the BLM’s final involvement in the Blackfoot Community Project. Previous BLM acquisitions of Community Project lands have totaled 11,098 acres located in the Marcum Mountain and Chamberlain Creek areas.
In 2008, The Nature Conservancy announced the Montana Legacy Project to conserve an additional 310,000 acres of Plum Creek lands in western Montana. Purchase of the Morrison Mountain parcel represents the BLM’s only involvement in the Montana Legacy Project.
The goals of both the Blackfoot Community Project and the Montana Legacy Project are to preserve vital wildlife habitat and water resources, maintain the production and restoration opportunities that sustain both the land and local communities, and to conserve traditional access for a broad variety of outdoor recreation.
“Acquisition of these parcels in an area with outstanding scenic values and exceptional biodiversity is an important public ownership addition to the Blackfoot River SRMA,” said Joe Ashor, manager of the BLM’s Missoula Field Office. “This watershed symbolizes the values of a rural lifestyle that is disappearing in the West and we in the BLM are committed to preserving that heritage for the benefit of future generations of public land users.”
The area located along the 132-mile Blackfoot River occupies a critical location in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, serving as the southern “bookend” for the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, an element of the larger Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.
The Blackfoot Valley’s landscape, shaped by glacial ice and a large glacial lake in the latter part of the Pleistocene Era, is striking in its diversity and includes exceptional wetlands, riparian, prairie grasslands, sagebrush steppe, blue ribbon trout streams, and coniferous forests. Examples of the Blackfoot River Watershed’s diverse and rare aquatic species include the west slope cutthroat trout, bull trout, and a species of freshwater mussel. One of these species, the Bull trout, is listed as threatened and endangered, and the BLM has partnered with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to restore its habitat.
In addition to its scenic and ecological values, the watershed is treasured nationally and locally for its recreational opportunities including fishing and floating.
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The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield. In Fiscal Year 2013, the BLM generated $4.7 billion in receipts from public lands.