The Lolo National Forest recently purchased 2,189 acres from The Nature Conservancy with funds from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. The land, now part of the Missoula Ranger District, includes 1,709 acres in Deer Creek and 480 acres in Petty Creek.
The Nature Conservancy purchased the land from Plum Creek Timber Company in 2008 as part of its Montana Legacy Project.
In 2010, the Lolo National Forest acquired 57,450 acres of Legacy land from the Conservancy on the Missoula Ranger District – including parcels in the Deer Creek drainage adjacent to this latest acquisition and more than 31,000 acres in Lolo Creek.
Deer Creek is a valuable spawning and rearing tributary for westslope cutthroat trout supporting a large, genetically-pure population of this native fish. Westslope cutthroat trout are classified as a “species of concern” in Montana due to their decreasing numbers and distribution.
The Deer Creek area is just north of Pattee Creek Recreation area and is popular with hikers, bikers, runners, etc. and provides many miles of connected trails and scenic overviews.
The area has had a long history of illegal dumping and unregulated off-road use. Prior to sale of the land, the Conservancy did extensive cleanup, which the USFS has continued with the assistance of a Missoula County RAC grant. The agency has also stepped up regulation of previously unmanaged and destructive off-road use.
The $1,992,660 purchase was made available through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund established by Congress in 1964.
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