The BLM has consistently determined that exchanging the Durfee Hills from the public domain is, "not in the best interest of the American people." Yet, the relentless push by the Wilks brothers to privatize this valuable public land continues.
On April 16th, 2014, BLM State Director Jamie Connell accepted a 1600+ signature petition from Central Montana Outdoors objecting to trading away accessible lands within the Durfee Hills, from the public domain. April 28th, 2014, the Billings Gazette reported, "Officials with the Bureau of Land Management decided last week to remove the Durfee Hills from consideration as part of a controversial land exchange proposed by Montana’s largest private landowners, Dan and Farris Wilks. 'We’ll be issuing a press release when we have something more significant to report,' said Melody Lloyd, chief of communications for BLM’s Montana/Dakotas office." On September 26th, 2014 the BLM issued an official press release stating, "A proposed land exchange to restore access was considered, but was determined to be not in the best interest of the American people who have entrusted the BLM to manage their public lands for them."
During the January 15, 2015 Billings Scoping meeting the BLM's District Manager Stan Benes, introduced a Wilks land exchange proposal as a possible alternative. Then on February 3rd, the BLM issued an official press release stating, "we would be willing to consider a land exchange proposal..." The Wilks new draft land exchange proposal, once again, includes the accessible BLM lands within the Durfee Hills.
Thankfully, in January of 2016 the BLM responded to widespread opposition to the Wilks' proposed land exchange by denying the proposal to proceed. In addition to forgoing plans to pursue a land exchange, the BLM also responded to ongoing complaints from BHA members about an illegally constructed fence that the Wilks built on public land. In July of 2016, a settlement was reached between the BLM and the Wilks brothers requiring the Wilks to remove the illegally constructed fence and to pay a $150,000 fine.
While we've thus far been successful in defending public access to Montana largest elk herd, this is undoubtedly the last we'll see of the Wilks brothers ongoing attempts to block off public access in the Durfee Hills. Stay up to date on the latest in the Durfee Hills and show your support for keeping this publicly accessible land public, by signing our Durfee Hills petition.