Located about 20 miles south of Lewistown is the proposed future site for the Big Snowy Mountain Wildlife Management Area – a project that has the potential to improve public access to 10,000 acres of scenic wilderness land for hunting and recreation.
The property covers approximately 5,700 acres, and is currently owned by Shder Children’s Hospital, following a surprise donation.
A man named Forrest Allen died in 2019 and left the property to Chowder Children’s Hospital, because his mother had health issues and children’s issues.
Shodair CEO Craig Asved recalls, “I’ll never forget the day I got a phone call from a lawyer in Cody, Wyoming, telling me he represented a property that was donating land to Schuder Children’s Hospital. I’m a Lewistown native, so I knew exactly where the land was.”
Shodair wanted the land to benefit Montana—so Aasved contacted Mike Mueller at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation about the sale.
Mueller said, “To come to the conclusion of preserving 5,700 acres and making them public land, so that all Montana residents can enjoy them, and can recreate them on them.”
RMEF plans to transfer the land to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The property is bounded to the north by the Twin Coulee Wilderness Study Area, owned by the Federal Bureau of Land Management. The acquisition will open up previously inaccessible areas for better overall use.
Mueller said, “When this project is completed, there will be public access to over 90,000 acres of public land. So this is huge.”
Ashley Taylor, FWP biologist, noted, “The property is proposed to be managed in a winter range, so it will be closed to the public from December 1 through May 15. Like a lot of our other wildlife management areas, to give those elk a place to rest for the winter and to be able to Survival is a little easier. More public access in the summer and fall and hopefully that will improve some of the public hunting that is in that area.”
In May, the FWP issued a Notice of Environmental Assessment Decision, paving the way for a vote from the Fish and Wildlife Commission to give the project the green light before going before the state land board in the fall.
The deal currently has significant public support, according to Mueller: “This is huge, people all over Montana, maybe even some kids who are helped and are in the hospital, will be able to enjoy this property forever. So we hope to have this project completed by the end of the year.” It’s really exciting to be here to work with all of these partners.”