Wilks Brothers Illegal Fencing

Timeline of the events involving the Wilks Ranch fencing issue.

  • Through efforts spearheaded by the Central Montana Hunters, the Public signed an online petition created on Mar. 2nd, as well as hand signed petitions totaling over 1600 signatures and public comments which were then submitted to the BLM State Director Jamie Connell on April 16 2014. As a result, the BLM rejected the Wilks land exchange proposal.
  • Mar. 19th, 2014 - The Wilks sought a land trade with the Bureau of Land Management, exchanging ranch land near Bullwhacker road in Blaine County for the Durfee Hills, which is situated right in the middle of their property with no public access, except by plane or helicopter. However, even though it is a wee bit more difficult to access, it is prime elk habitat.
  • Mar. 23rd, Proposed land exchange raises profile of landlocked public parcel
  • April 29, 2014 Wilks say they are going to open access to Bullwhacker Road.
  • May 3, 2014 Wilks brothers 'blindsided' by BLM decision on land swap
  • Aug. 19, 2014 BLM-Wilks land exchange off table, but online
  • The Wilks then began tearing up a swath of land to erect a fence "on their property", encircling the BLM Durfee Hills summer 2014.
  • This fence was first photo documented by a bowhunter (wingman) that flew into the Durfee Hills on Sept. 5th on the Hunt Talk Forum.
  • After seeing the first photo of a 5 wire fence, I began posting documents citing legal fencing laws and regulations, even if it was erected on private property.
  • Sept. 26, 2014, BLM published a press release concerning the BLM starting the process to restore access to the Bullwhacker, with contact information, purpose and 3 scoping meetings at the beginning of Dec. It also stated, "A proposed land exchange to restore access was considered, but was determined to be not in the best interest of the American people who have entrusted the BLM to manage their public lands for them. "
  • On Oct. 1st, as a result of a number of the public raising questions, the Billings Gazette ran an article, based on the Sept. 30th BLM Public Notice, that the Durfee Hills fence built by the Wilks was okay - no encroachment/trespass - it was not.
  • Oct. 7th, I contacted the Fergus County Clerk & Recorder, followed by the Assessors office - there was no professional survey on record!
  • Oct. 8th, After speaking with BLM about the lack of a professional survey, I sent an official request for a survey and investigation into the other possible trespass matters to BLM State Director Jamie Connell, posted the request to th EMWH Blog, the Hunt Talk Forum and sent it out through the EMWH Newsletter, requesting others express their concern as well. Later that day I received an email from Stan Benes the Regional Director acknowledging my request.
  • Oct. 9th, I received a phone call from Geoff Beyersdorff the BLM Field Manager that BLM would be conducting a Cadastral survey and investigation.
  • Oct. 19th I was flown out to the Durfee Hills by another conservation hunter to document part of the fencing.
  • Oct. 20th, I met with the Lewistown DNRC and BLM offices concerning documentation.
  • Oct. 21st I sent in an official complaint and request for survey and investigation to the Lewistown DNRC office - Clive Rooney.
  • BLM's Mel Lloyd relayed that the Cadastral survey would begin on the 23rd.
  • Oct. 24th-27th I was flown out by a different conservation hunter for a campout to extend the documenting.
  • Nov. 13th, filed my BLM FOIA (Freedom of Information Act).
  • Nov. 21, replying to my request on Durfee Hills survey, BLM Dist. Mgr. Stan Benes replied, "As for the survey, it is in the cadastral shop for record construction, review, and approval, prior to going to the Federal register for I believe 30 days. Until that process is complete, as our lead suveyor says, there are no results to share."
  • Dec. 23rd, BLM FOIA approved
  • Dec. 24, 2014, 2nd press release adding another scoping meeting in Billings on Jan 15, 2015.
  • Please see Wilks Fencing Updates for 2015 Timeline

Update: Jan. 26, 2016, BLM Central Montana District Manager, Mark Albers, announced today athe Central Montana RAC meeting, not to pursue a WIlks Brothers Land Exchange Proposal at this time; also, no road building will be pursued at the Bullwhacker either.

Wilks Brothers Durfee Hills Interactive Map
This map provides photographic and videographic documentation, links to documents involved such as the grazing leases, fencing laws for Montana and the BLM Fencing Standards to assist the reader with a virtual tour of sorts of the situation at hand.

Wilks Brothers Land Exchange Rebuttal / BLM Breaking Faith Page

Hunt Talk Forum
Thread - Wilks brothers true colors are shining through.....
created by Wingman (second pilot to fly me out to the Durfee Hills to document)

 

Sportsmen concerned over Durfee Hills fence, BLM to conduct Survey by Charlie Dennison (PDF version, front page, continued on page 8) Interview with Kathryn QannaYahu

 

State's largest landowners keep expanding by Brett French

 

 

"In Montana alone the Wilkses own 341,845 acres, according to Montana Cadastral mapping figures, making them the largest private landowners in the state. That figure now tops Plum Creek Timber Co., which for years was the largest landowner in the state.

The Wilkses, on the other hand, have staked out the majority of their Montana property in central Montana. Looking at a map, the Wilkses’ holdings have been clustered near where Fergus, Musselshell and Golden Valley counties adjoin — expanding out from their first purchase of the N Bar Ranch onto adjoining property." Now, I do not begrudge people purchasing and owning land (that is their right), but the fence issues that affect our wildlife, unlawfully inclosing our Public Lands, possible privatization of our wildlife, cutting off public access to Public Lands and public hunter harassment are a different matter."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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