Given its name and remote location, Rattlesnake Coulee may not seem like a place worth buying.
But the 317 acres in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument ties together two isolated parcels for the Bureau of Land Management. That’s why the agency is seeking public comment on a proposal to purchase the land.
“Actually, Rattlesnake Coulee is about half a mile north of the parcel we're looking at acquiring,” said Zane Fulbright, monument manager, in an email. “There is a prairie dog town on the piece though, so there would be reason for rattlesnakes to be present.”
In 2020, The Conservation Fund bought the two parcels in Chouteau County, south of Big Sandy, with the idea of one day selling the land to the BLM. The land was listed for $225,000.
The BLM is proposing to buy the land to “enhance public access and recreation opportunities within the Missouri River corridor; to maintain or improve important wildlife habitat; to consolidate public ownership; and to reduce the management complications common with scattered landownership patterns,” according to the BLM’s environmental assessment.
Fulbright will decide whether to proceed with the purchase after the public comment period, which extends to Feb. 14.
“Providing access to public lands is a priority here in central Montana,” Fulbright said in a press release. “This acquisition supports the objectives of the 2019 Dingell Act, benefiting everyone who hunts, fishes, and recreates in the Missouri Breaks.”
The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, created in 2001, is spread along 377,000-acres of the Missouri River in north-central Montana. The monument extends east from Fort Benton 149 miles downstream to Robinson Bridge. The corridor is part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.
The land is located between BLM’s Lone Tree Coulee and Monroe Island riverside campsites.
The land contains a one-acre cottonwood grove. Cottonwood regeneration along the river has been a goal of the BLM.
The land is currently being leased for cattle grazing. “Any changes to the current grazing permit would be brought forward through a subsequent decision document,” the EA stated.
The proposal is to fund the purchase with Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars.