Parks Board Approves Inquiry into Land Purchases for Lower Yellowstone River Corridor Access | Regional News
New land acquisitions along the lower Yellowstone River to create public access, promote tourism and economic development are being considered a “new thing,” possibly anchored by a state park at the west of Terry.
The land acquisition of the lower Yellowstone River Powder River Depot is the “big kahuna” in a project stretching 163 miles from Hysham downstream to Sidney, said Hope Stockwell, administrator of the parks and recreation division from Montana.
On Thursday, the State Parks and Recreation Board approved the continuation of the 45 to 700 acres of land to create the park and anchor the larger river corridor project. Approval is preliminary. Before a final proposal is presented, the Parks Division will hold discussions with landowners and perform its due diligence.
The Powder River property was “by far” the most significant site recommended for acquisition and development by the Lower Yellowstone River Coalition, Angie Grove said. She led the 12-member advisory group comprised of eastern Montana landowners, business people, tourism officials, and conservation and recreation members.
“There’s just all the elements there,” she added.
The land is located in Prairie County where the Powder and Yellowstone rivers meet, approximately six miles southwest of Terry and abutting state and Bureau of Land Management property. An off-ramp from Interstate 94 just west of the Powder River would provide easy access to the acreage and connect to old Route 10.
Historically, in 1876, approximately 100 US Army forces camped in the area, the same summer that the Battle of Little Bighorn occurred to the southwest. Excavations in 1985 by the BLM unearthed a dump full of artifacts from the time. The land also once housed historic stagecoach stops and rider stations.
Parks board member Mary Moe said the site had “incredible potential” to provide recreation for a full day of activities.
“It really is an exciting potential center of this project,” she added.
The state has authorized $4 million for land acquisitions along lower Yellowstone, which could be used to receive federal grants to expand the funding base. The Powder River Depot property is one of the latest properties identified. The parks board also approved the continuation of the Zero property, 10 to 20 acres of state land between Miles City and Terry on the south side of the river.
In February, the Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the continuation of the 20-acre Cracker Box site west of Glendive and the 328-acre Wildcat Bend property in Rosebud County as other links in the river development chain. .
The advisory group’s report suggested that the best way to oversee the new recreational corridor would be to adopt a management model similar to that of Flathead Lake State Park, which has multiple units under one roof. Designation of the area as a State Waterway, State Scenic Area, State Scenic Corridor or Corridor Management Area could help achieve the multi-pronged goals of conserving habitat, historic and scenic values. while encouraging recreation and economic growth.
“We’ve never done anything like this before,” Stockwell said, adding that the Parks and Recreation Division had decided to move away from a corridor-wide state park, instead considering a ” hybrid” wider.
News about possible land acquisitions has raised concern among some landowners in eastern Montana, Stockwell said.
“Because of other work and proposals that have taken place in eastern Montana, some landowners are concerned that what we are looking to do has some element that would restrict what they can do on their property or in the river,” she said. “What we are looking for here would have no such restrictions… There is nothing that goes with it that would in any way restrict the work of a landowner. So I want to make that very clear as you think about it.
Parks and Recreation board member Kathy McLane, a Glendive-area resident, said she spent a lot of time talking to people in the area and heard concerns about river recreation landing on private property and leaving trash. Additionally, his family had to patrol his property and encountered open doors, trash, and a cow riddled with shotgun pellets.
Despite the associated issues, McLane added that she believed everyone was capable of “playing well in the same group”. If river recreation sites are well chosen, spread out enough to allow boaters to move from public land to public land, some of the problems of private land should disappear.
“Lower Yellowstone can be difficult to access despite its stunning scenery, outstanding wildlife habitat, incredible cultural and historical resources, and truly vast recreational potential,” said Noah Marion, director of state policy for Wild Montana and member of the advisory board.
Creating more access will help the economy, protect habitat and improve the quality of life for area residents and visitors, he added.