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Sleeping Giant

View from the overlook south of Sleeping Giant Ranch. The gravel county road visible at right runs approximately north-south and is the eastern boundary for the lower third of the property, which extends up into the grassland on the lower portion of the Giant.

Public access directly to the Sleeping Giant near Helena may become available under a proposal approved Thursday.

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission on Thursday gave the green light to explore the purchase of nearly 2,000 acres adjacent to the iconic landmark about 30 miles north of Montana's capital city.

Under the proposal, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks may negotiate for the purchase of the Sleeping Giant Ranch. If purchased, 1,967 acres would become a new wildlife management area abutting a large block of federal land. According to the agency, there is also the potential for the property to remain in private ownership with a conservation easement.

Currently, the only ways to access the Sleeping Giant are a long, rugged hike from Wood Siding Gulch to the west, or from the water off Holter Reservoir.

The area provides winter range and calving ground for deer, elk and antelope and -- under state management -- would provide direct southern access onto the Sleeping Giant’s body and adjoining access to BLM lands that include the rocky face. The ranch lies within Hunting District 339, which is currently a special permit to hunt brow-tined bulls and offers antlerless elk as well as general deer and elk hunting.

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The proposal drew support from those commenting Thursday at the commission’s meeting in Missoula.

Jay Erickson, who sits on the advisory board of the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, which has interest in funding, said the property has been on the radar of conservationists for years as the area has been inaccessible.

Mitch King with the Montana Outdoor Legacy Foundation echoed support, and said the approval kicks off a conversation of how to fund it.

Thursday’s approval means that FWP will begin its due diligence on the property, which would include an appraisal and public comment for the commission’s later consideration. A purchase would also require approval of the Montana State Board of Land Commissioners.

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Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 @IR_TomKuglin

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