When the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation proposed selling 440-acres of school trust land in Woods Bay, the community came out adamantly against the plan. The land is a popular recreation area with Cougar Canyon, hiking trails, and Estes Lake. The DNRC manages it in a trust for Montana Tech’s School of Mines, and because of access issues and revenue generating potential, they wanted to sell it, and buy a new piece of property.
In response to the unpopularity of the proposal, a community group of private landowning neighbors, the U.S Forest Service, concerned citizens, and the DNRC decided to sit down together and work out a plan. The self-dubbed “440 Committee” met recently in the basement of the Saddlehorn building to start the process.
The first step was figuring out how each person envisioned “Success” in this case. A major concern from the public is that selling this land would set a dangerous precedent.
“To ensure,” stated Dan Vincent who hunts and hikes in the area, “that this doesn’t set a precedent that every piece of property that has a higher value as a development gets sold.” In addition, subdividing and selling was overwhelmingly disliked, but the need for the state to access the land to deal with wildfire concerns and weed problems was also a major theme.
“We’ve got to manage this like a garden, the weeds have taken over,” said Jim Frizzell who owns property neighboring the land, “we need to clean it up and let the good stuff grow.
The group identified several points that paint a picture of “Success”. A necessary goal is that the DNRC meet their revenue generating responsibilities. In addition, the 440 Committee want the land managed for fire danger, weeds, timber harvest, and public access. They want to ensure the safety of the wildlife corridor, protect water quality, and take advantage of the educational opportunities.
How to approach these goals is on the agenda for the next meeting, October 2nd at 8:30 AM at Saddlehorn.
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