Proposal adds 115 acres to Big Lake Wildlife Management Area

Billings Gazette

The purchase of a 115-acre parcel to expand the Big Lake Wildlife Management Area 23 miles northwest of Billings has cleared its first hurdle after Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks issued a decision notice approving the deal on Aug. 31.

The land, owned by the T Bar J Ranch, would expand the existing 3,086-acre bird-rich area managed by FWP. The wildlife management area provides habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds and grassland birds as well as pronghorn and mule deer, according to FWP’s draft environmental assessment.

The purchase would also end a chronic fencing problem. As water rises in the basin, the WMA boundary fence is weakened, allowing livestock entry to the birding area.

“By FWP acquiring this parcel, a new boundary would be established mostly on upland sites, which would substantially reduce maintenance needs, both for FWP and the neighboring ranch,” the draft environmental assessment noted. “Water levels and wetland extent fluctuate dramatically from year to year depending on local precipitation. This proposed addition to the WMA would ensure livestock can be effectively excluded from the WMA regardless of water level fluctuations, bringing stability for the landowner and FWP.”

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