Due to the vast amounts of public land in western states, recreational use of these lands is a big deal for hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

The United States Government owns much of the land designated for public use. These are managed by the Department of Agriculture or the Department of the Interior by the US Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation. The rest of public lands are managed by state governments.

The Beartooth Ranch located near Clark is one of these public lands. The history of how the land that was once an agricultural property owned by private individuals is an interesting one. I will pare the story of how the ranch was transferred from a private individual into the hands of the public down within a few short sentences in order to make my editor happy.

A drug dealer wanted by the DEA “escaped” to Clark, where he purchased the ranch and tried to fly under the Fed’s radar. That worked until a dispute with an adjacent land owner and the Park County Assessor and Treasurer’s offices, resulted in the drug dealer’s name popping up on the US Marshall’s Most Wanted List. After his arrest, his property was confiscated legally. Ultimately, the Beartooth Ranch ended up belonging to the State of Wyoming to be used specifically for the benefit of the public for recreational use and enjoyment.

After an attempt to get the land back into the hands of private enterprise, members of the public in Park County threw such a fit that Park County Commissioners backed off the idea of trying to get the State Land Board to sell the property and decided to form a committee from those that cried foul to better address how to make the Beartooth Ranch a showcase for public lands.

The direction to the committee from the Commissioners was to work with the Office of State Lands to develop the Beartooth Ranch property into something that would assist fishermen, hunters, hikers, photographers, wildlife viewers, river floaters and, most importantly, native wildlife well into the future.

This past Saturday, the Beartooth Ranch Committee held a celebration of Public Lands at the former ranch to showcase what local citizens can do in a short time to meet the demands of the county, as well as the general public. If you have not traveled to this property before, you should see what has been done in a very short time for the enjoyment of the public.

Grizzly bears (two at least), deer, elk, partridge, bald eagles, osprey, antelope and a host of other game and fowl have begun to enjoy and inhabit these 600-plus acres besides anglers, floaters, hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts since the Park County Commissioners yielded to public demand.

Fortunately for public land enthusiasts, the Beartooth Ranch Committee, led by chairman Len Fortunato, were able to solicit donations and support from Wyoming Outdoorsmen, Pheasants Forever, Trout Unlimited, The Greater Yellowstone Coalition and private individuals to speed the project along with donations in the form of bear boxes at each picnic shelter, tons of gravel for the shelter floors and perimeters, signs regarding invasive plant species, monofilament disposal stations at the boat ramp and northern picnic area, and the necessary much-needed and much-appreciated volunteer manpower to put of these improvements together in a short amount of time.

Wyoming Game and Fish, BLM, Park County Parks and Recreation Board and Park County Weed and Pest stepped up and assisted the Beartooth Ranch Committee for supplying picnic tables at each shelter, improve the fencing out of livestock from wildlife habitat, constructing a new vault toilet and cattle guard at the entrance to the ranch and more. Last but most important besides the modern outdoor toilet, was the construction of the two picnic shelters at two different locations on the property.

The improvements to this land will not only benefit Park County residents but also members of the public from around the USA and world. There is still work to be done in regard to utilizing the irrigation of viable pasture land and the removal of noxious and invasive weeds and plants.

If you are a believer in keeping public lands, the Beartooth Ranch property is proof the public is willing to take on the responsibility of keeping public lands public. Go enjoy the ranch. Please take great pains to keep it in the hands of you the public for years to come.

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