FWP Commission approves Milk River ranch purchase, closes wolf hunting season near Yellowstone

State wildlife commissioners have approved the purchase of a nearly 8 million dollar ranch along the Milk River near the Canadian border

The Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Commission voted 4 to 1 to buy the land along with the state land board and Montana Board of Regents.

Critics including neighboring landowners said the ranch’s hunting and fishing opportunities had been overstated, and that a second appraisal was needed to ensure the state was getting a fair deal. They urged commissioners to delay their Monday vote.

FWP Spokesman Ron Aasheim says other critics voiced concerns that the money spent on the ranch would be better spent elsewhere.

But Aasheim says the commission decided this purchase would be a prudent use of funds to change ranch into a wildlife management area.

“It blocks up a number of sections in that area and it provides 10 miles of the Milk River. It’s a good piece of property. That wasn’t the argument, there were just concerns with timing and where this fit with other priorities,” Aasheim said.

Several landowners who spoke Monday threatened to cut off public hunting access on their properties if the deal went through.

Aasheim says commissioners also voted to close down wolf hunting in some areas North of Yellowstone National Park, saying the body decided enough wolves had been taken there.

“There were some concerns about collared wolves from the park, that was probably the thing that started all this and they just agreed maybe we’ll be conservative this year,” Aasheim said.

Wolf hunting continues in other parts of the state with no kill limit. The state’s first wolf trapping season begins December 15th. Both seasons last into February.

So far about 90 wolves have been taken this hunting season.

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