The Department of Justice's Trustee Restoration Council announced this afternoon it's taking public comment on a $16.6 million land acquisition proposal on 27,497 acres of ranch and timber land in the Spotted Dog Creek complex. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks submitted a request to the council to use restoration funds generated by the state's legal settlement with the Atlantic Richfield Company to back the purchase. The Spotted Dog property, located south of Avon in Powell County, is currently owned by RY Timber.
The council is considering the request outside the restoration fund's annual grant cycle, essentially fast-tracking the $16.6 million expense on top of an additional $18 million in grant requests that have yet to be approved. According to Carol Fox, restoration program chief for the Natural Resource Damage Program, approval of these expenses will mark the first time the council has committed more than the $7.5 million annual interest generated by the restoration funds. As of April 1, the balance of non-committed restoration funds totaled $123.4 million.
FWP appraised the property at $15.2 million, but an existing contract between RY Timber and Rock Creek Cattle Company, which is leasing the land with an option to purchase, is valued at around $9 million. FWP hopes to designate the Spotted Dog acreage a wildlife management area. The public comment period expires Aug. 9, and the acquisition will then be reviewed by the Upper Clark Fork River Basin Advisory Council before they make final recommendations to Gov. Brian Schweitzer.