A local family has partnered with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to permanently protect over 300 acres of elk habitat in the Elkhorn Mountains. RMEF’s Mark Holyoak said the area is about 14 miles west of Townsend in the Missouri River-Canyon Ferry Lake Valley and is well-known to sportsmen and women as a prime area for trophy bull elk.

"It's just a combination of them recognizing the land that's around them and how important it is," Holyoak said. "You know, in this day and age, a lot of times land owners may look to just make a bottom-line dollar as opposed to seeing that maybe the land can go into the public's hands and that's what happened. So this land is not only firmly protected for its habitat values, but also so folks can go in and check it out for the first time."

Holyoak said since the property is now permanently protected, there is no longer a potential threat of development which could have led to a loss of habitat

"Folks that hunt elk know that the Elkhorns are known for having a generous supply of elk and some decent sized elk at that, so it's good all the way around," Holyoak said.

Aside from the Williams family and RMEF, big-name conservation partners include the U.S. Forest Service, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, and the Helena National Forest.

"We are grateful to the Williams family for their desire and commitment to protect and conserve this inholding within the Elkhorn Mountain Range," said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. "This is crucial elk winter range that is also home to mule and whitetail deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, bear and a wide variety of other wildlife and bird species."