The Montana State Board of Land Commissioners this morning unanimously approved Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks' (FWP) proposal to purchase 27,616 acres in the Spotted Dog complex northeast of Deer Lodge from the Rock Creek Cattle Company for $15.5 million. The proposal also includes a $148,869, 10-year grazing lease from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation for 10,260 acres in the Spotted Dog, as well as a five-year maintenance fund of $1.2 million. The additional expenses bring the total cost of the acquisition to more than $16.6 million, which FWP intends to fund through the state's Natural Resource Damage Program.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer, one of the Land Board's five voting members, has repeatedly presented the purchase as an "extraordinary opportunity to protect the permanent interests of the people of western Montana." He has all but guaranteed that the Spotted Dog acquisition, rushed to the top of numerous state agency's agendas this summer, will go through by fall. For more on the story, catch our print edition this Thursday.