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The BLM’s Billings Field Office gave an outstanding tour of three sites around the Billings area. Sites visited were:

Four Dances Special Recreation Management Area

Through cooperative efforts, landowners, the Yellowstone River Parks Association, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) preserved 765 acres of undeveloped open space in Billings. These public lands mostly consist of native sagebrush/grassland, ponderosa pine in the rocky outcrop areas near the river cliffs, and cottonwood riparian. Four Dances is designated a special recreation management area and an area of critical environmental concern. The BLM’s objective for the site is to protect the open space and natural and cultural resources, while providing dispersed public recreation in Billings. This area is located on a plateau 2 miles east of downtown Billings and is bordered on the east side by Coburn Road. The plateau is edged with cliffs that drop 200-500 feet to the river. The west boundary is the Yellowstone River. Activities include wildlife watching, hiking, nature photography, and environmental education.

Lynn Edwards – Site Host/Volunteer – spoke about the land use.
Mike Penfold – Our Montana – spoke about history and Yellowstone Island ownership project.
John Moorhouse – Montana Land Reliance – Spoke about the conservation easement and other statewide initiatives.
Dave LeFevre, BLM Billings Assistant Field Manager sums things up for the attendees
View of Yellowstone River from atop Four Dances Natural Area.

Yellowstone Wildlife Management Area

The Yellowstone WMA is located in along the Yellowstone River about 30 miles northeast of Billings and 2.5 miles west of Pompey’s Pillar National Monument. The WMA encompasses a variety of high priority habitats including river riparian, sagebrush grassland, and ponderosa pine savannah. The WMA provides public land access to an adjacent 4,760 contiguous acres of BLM-managed lands that were previously only accessible by boat from the Yellowstone River or from the air. In total, this WMA provides public recreational opportunities on 9,426 acres of high quality riverine and prairie/breaks habitat. The three primary habitat types  are riparian river bottom, sagebrush grassland, and ponderosa pine savannah. The WMA contains approximately five miles of riparian habitat along the north shore of the Yellowstone River. The riparian habitat is very high quality with extensive stands of cottonwoods, intermixed with willow, buffalo berry, and other shrubs. There are several islands bordering the property that are surrounded by old river channels and sloughs, creating ideal waterfowl roosting areas. There are also 90+ acres of irrigated fields in the river bottom that provide tremendous opportunity to enhance the wildlife value of the native habitats. Two center-pivot sprinklers using water pumped from the Yellowstone River irrigate these acres. These acres are intensively managed through nesting cover, food plots, and brood plots to provide much needed public pheasant hunting opportunity. (Information from the Montana Wildlife Federation).

Barbara Beck – Region 5 Supervisor, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks introduces the speakers. Dave LeFevre, BLM Billings Assistant Field Manager on the left.
Megan O’Reilly – Wildlife Manager, MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks -spoke about the acquisition.
Jay Watson – Fish and Wildlife Technician, MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks -spoke about the Pheasants Forever partnership and hunting opportunities.
Kim Prill – BLM Lands Branch Chief – spoke about statewide access initiatives.
Participants listen to the presentations.

Pompeys Pillar National Monument

Pompeys Pillar was part of the original 1803 Louisiana Purchase. and represents the legacy of the early West and its development. At the Pillar, there is evidence of Native Americans, early explorers, fur trappers, the U.S. Cavalry, railroad development and early homesteaders, many of whom left their history embedded in this sandstone pillar. Captain William Clark, his guide, Sacagawea, her 18-month old son (nicknamed “Pompey”) and a crew of 11 men stopped near the 200-foot-high rock outcropping on the return leg of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. On July 25, 1806, Clark carved his signature and the date in the rock and recorded doing so in his journal. The historic signature remains today, and visitors can walk on a boardwalk to see it

BLM Park Ranger Sonni Hope
Pompeys Pillar Interpretive Center (photo by BLM).
Replica of William Clark’s carved-in-stone signature. This is one of only a few pieces of remaining physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1806 ordered by president Jefferson.
Pompeys Pillar.
Replica of dugout canoe built in a catamaran formation that was used in the Yellowstone River.