Big Horn Sheep. Photo by Patrick Herbert/Flickr
The Elkhorn Mountains stretch across 300,000 acres, stand 9,000-feet tall and contain some of the most important and vulnerable wildlife habitat in Montana. Located just south of Helena, in one of Montana’s fastest-growing regions, these mountains are a winter haven for elk and a year-round habitat for bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope.
Encroaching development put both habitat and public access at risk.
The Conservation Fund, working with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the state of Montana, completed a five-year effort to preserve the Iron Mask ranch. Iron Mask is a property of more than 5,500 acres that flanks the eastern side of the Elkhorn Mountains. In 2007, we completed the transfer of the entire property to the Bureau of Land Management. Outdoor enthusiasts—not to mention elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope and other wildlife—now have new room to roam.
This conservation success reflects a broad partnership, including the Elkhorn Conservation Initiative, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Montana’s congressional delegation. In particular, the Fund worked closely with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to ensure the Iron Mask property would remain intact for wildlife. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) secured vital federal funding for the land purchase.