Governor Gianforte Celebrates Expanded Public Access at Mount Haggin

As chair of Montana Land Board, governor championed acquisition of 829-acre parcel to expand Mount Haggin WMA

Governor's Office
  • February 22 2023

ANACONDA, Mont. – Governor Greg Gianforte today visited Mount Haggin Wildlife Management Area (WMA), recently expanded by the governor as chair of the Montana Land Board.

“Montana is home to 70 Wildlife Management Areas which preserve critical habitat, increase recreational opportunities, and help support local jobs and small businesses,” Gov. Gianforte said. “We successfully expanded the Mount Haggin WMA in the Montana Land Board, protecting wintering ground for big game and increasing Montanans’ access to tens of thousands of acres in the Pintlers.”

The governor continued, “As I heard today at Sugar Loaf Lodge and Cabins, it’ll also support small businesses here in Deer Lodge County. This is a win-win for Montana.”

Willow Creek Addition

Gov. Gianforte and FWP officials addressing the importance of increased public access in front of the Willow Creek addition of Mount Haggin WMA 

As chair of the Montana Land Board, Gov. Gianforte championed the acquisition of an 829-acre parcel, known as the Willow Creek addition, to expand the WMA. The Land Board approved the purchase of the Willow Creek addition in August 2022.

Joined by officials with the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), Governor Gianforte visited the WMA and received a briefing from FWP Region 3 Supervisor Marina Yoshioka on the importance of the area for wildlife habitat and public access.

As the state’s largest WMA, Mount Haggin provides Montanans access to 60,000 acres for recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping, birdwatching, and hiking, as well as additional access to tens of thousands of acres of federal lands, between May 15 and December 1 annually.

While much of the ground is closed seasonally to protect wintering habitat for elk, deer, and moose, a substantial portion of the higher country is still open for winter recreation. This portion includes 20 miles of trails open for cross country skiing, and nearly 25 miles of trails groomed for snowmobiling.

“This expansion wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of Roger and Gayle Burnett, the former landowners, and the hard work of many, including folks at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. I appreciate all the Montanans who helped get this project across the finish line,” the governor said.

FWP Director Hank Worsech added, “WMAs are a crown jewel of FWP’s public lands framework and are critical to local landowners and communities. They represent our commitment to working with ranchers and farmers to provide winter range for wildlife and to the public to provide critical habitat and access. I’m encouraging our staff across the state to continue to look for more opportunities like this working with local landowners and communities to find projects with the amazing local support the Willow Creek addition had.”

After visiting the Mount Haggin WMA, the governor traveled with First Lady Susan Gianforte to Sugar Loaf Lodge and Cabins, where they had coffee with the owners, Monica and Jay Winfield.

The governor and first lady heard from the Winfields about how the nearby WMA increases opportunities for their guests to hike, fish, and hunt.

“When we heard about the new acquisition of the Willow Creek parcel, we were thrilled about the expansion of management of our public lands. We have yet to see a negative aspect of having the WMA close by — from cross country ski trails, to hiking trails, to hunting access, to snowmobiling – it has proven to be a major attraction,” the Winfields said. “The WMA attracts families to the outdoors, passing on recreational experiences for future generations. Public lands provide a whole host of outdoor opportunities throughout out the four seasons of Montana, instilling life-long values and appreciation for the environment.”

Sugar Load Lodge and Cabins

Gov. and First Lady Gianforte meeting with Monica and Jay Winfield, owners of Sugar Loaf Lodge and Cabins

The Willow Creek addition to the Mount Haggin WMA will open to the public on May 15.