As more people flock to Montana, the sprawl of development continues to push into wild places, while decisions on developments seem to be made with little foresight or considerations for our public wildlife.
This is happening once again, in Broadwater County, where a new 450-acre subdivision is currently being reviewed by the Broadwater County Commission. The proposed Horse Creek Hills development is on the shores of Canyon Ferry Reservoir, at the base of Confederate Gulch. It borders both state school trust land and Bureau of Reclamation land, is a known hunting area and critical wintering range for elk. The area is also home to moose, antelope, deer and both upland gamebirds and waterfowl. But soon it will be home to houses and pavement, and the adjacent public lands may be off limits to hunters.
While Montana BHA fully respects private land rights, we have two main concerns with this subdivision. First, there will be a disruption for the wildlife, primarily elk, which has been pointed out by Montana FWP Region 3 director in a letter to the Broadwater County Commissioners. Adding more than 39 homes (plus two potential commercial businesses) to this area will have an adverse effect on important wildlife habitat and movements, no question.
The second concern is the loss of public hunting opportunity. Since discharging a firearm on state land is illegal within a quarter mile of an occupied dwelling or outbuilding (without the landowner’s permission), this development could significantly reduce hunting opportunities on adjacent DNRC state lands, potentially eliminating these opportunities entirely.
While ultimately this is a private lands right pending County Commission approval, we’d ask that important considerations be given to address or alleviate the legitimate public concerns above.
“If we could play back all of the times this has happened,” said BHA member Tony Bynum. “it would tell the story of how hunters wound up fighting over the scraps. The consequences of taking this habitat and turning it into houses and paved roads are long lasting.”
The ‘cows not condos’ slogan comes to mind once again, further reaffirming Montana BHA’s efforts to fund tools that encourage conservation and public access, like easements through Habitat Montana.
Thank you for speaking up for our wildlife, open spaces and public opportunities.