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Investment firm, nonprofit partner to protect land west of Yellowstone

A photo of ranch that was protected by the investment firm and non-profit.
Tracy Dean River
Tracy Dean River
About 600 acres near Yellowstone National Park’s West entrance are protected against development.

An environmental advocacy organization and a Bozeman-based investment firm partnered to protect around 600 acres near Yellowstone National Park’s West entrance from being developed.

The Howard Creek ranch near the eastern shore of Henry’s Lake, 15 miles from Yellowstone, is in an ecologically significant area, says Tess O’Sullivan, land conservation strategy lead with the nonprofit Nature Conservancy’s Idaho Chapter.

“It’s an open area of sagebrush steppe, an area of working cattle ranches and an area that supports a lot of wildlife movement," she said. "Pronghorn in particular really rely on this property."

So do Yellowstone cutthroat trout — part of a stream where they spawn is on the property.

The conservation-focused real estate investment firm Beartooth Group bought the ranch and sold it to the Nature Conservancy. The firm’s founder Robert Keith says the returns are not financial, but rather about protecting a wildlife migration corridor.

“It seemed entirely possible that a developer would buy it and develop this, putting up 80 different fence lines, 80 different homes, RV park, you name it and this is just west of Yellowstone National Park,” he said.

Beartooth Group declined to provide financial details on the transaction.

The Nature Conservancy plans to put a conservation easement on the property and eventually sell it to a landowner who will keep it a working ranch.

This story previously misidentified the name of the ranch property. The property is the Howard Creek ranch.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.