October 18, 2006                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton


      First Acquisition Under Land Banking Program Opens More Public Lands to Montanans, Preserves Historic Site
      As a member of the State Land Board, Montana State Auditor John Morrison announced today that Montanans will have more state trust land acres to recreate on thanks to the first acquisition made this week under the Land Banking Program. The 897-acres of land the state acquired adjoins the Ulm-Pishkun State Park and will bring the total acreage of the park to almost 3,000-acres.
      Land Banking is the process of selling and acquiring state trust lands (state land) to consolidate land holdings and increase public recreational use of state land while increasing revenue to the State School Trust Fund. Under the new process, the Land Board can purchase key parcels of land that would permit public access to state trust lands that are currently land-locked.
      “The Land Banking Program has been in the works for many years,” said Morrison. “It’s exciting to finally be at the point where we’ve made our first acquisition. This new land not only opens up more public land for Montanans but also preserves one of the largest and oldest prehistoric buffalo kill sites in North America.”
      The newly acquired land, previously known as the Eustance Ranch, includes a major portion of the buffalo jump which has been the focus of the Ulm-Pishkun State Park. The park borders the ranch on the south end and has preserved the buffalo jump sites within the park boundary. The jump sites continue on the Eustance Ranch for approximately one mile beyond the state park boundary. There are several unexcavated jump sites on the ranch property along with associated stone circles and archeological sites.
      In order to protect the land from the threat of development, the All Nations Pishkun Association had been urging the state to acquire the historic property. “Permanent protection of the entire buffalo jump site will preserve a central part of our Montana history for generations to come,” said Brad Hamlett, the group’s vice president.
      A longtime advocate of the land banking concept, Morrison first proposed the idea in 2001 after he determined that nearly 50 percent of Montana’s School Trust Lands were wholly surrounded by private property, according to a study commissioned by the State Auditor’s Office. In 2003, Morrison, along with the other Land Board members and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), requested legislation to create the Land Banking Program. Rules were written and adopted in September of 2004.
      Earlier this year, the state sold an 80-acre residential site in Kalispell for $6.4 million. The Ulm-Pishkun site was purchased for $718,256, which is $251,000 below its appraised value. Since Mr. and Mrs. Eustance wanted to see the ranch preserved, they were willing to sell it to the state at a significant discount.
      “This is the first of many of the transactions that will increase public access to state lands,” said Morrison. "The next few acquisitions will result in up to 20,000 additional acres of state trust land for public use.”
      Those instrumental in turning the concept of land banking into a reality include the Montana Wildlife Federation, Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Environmental Information Center, Montana Farm Bureau, Montana Association of Counties, Montana Wood Products Association, Skyline Sportsmen, Montana School Boards Association and the University beneficiaries, The Departments of Natural Resources and Conservation and Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
      “I especially want to commend the excellent work of the folks at the DNRC responsible for implementing the Land Banking Program. Without their fine work, we wouldn’t be announcing this first land acquisition,” said Morrison.
      The State Land Board is made up of Montana’s top five statewide elected officials and is charged with managing state trust land resources to produce revenues for the State School Trust Fund while considering environmental factors and protecting the future income-generating capacity of the land.
      “Land banking is a win-win situation for Montanans. It increases public access for hunters and recreationists and it allows landowners to consolidate their property while at the same time increasing revenue for the school trust fund,” Morrison said.