U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Division of Refuge Planning
Mountain-Prairie Region

Completed Plan Contacts

The Service completed this plan
in 2004.




Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge
P.O. Box 110
Airport Road
Lewistown, Montana 59457


406 / 538 8706





Land Protection Plan

Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge
Refuge Expansion Environmental Assessment



With the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the lead agency, the Service conducted this land protection planning effort to implement the "Resources Development Act of 2000, Title VIII–Wildlife Refuge Enhancement"   (known as Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge Enhancement Act of 2000). The act directs the selling of cabin sites at Fort Peck Lake. The proceeds are deposited in the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust for use in acquiring other lands with greater wildlife and other public value for the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. The purpose of these land purchases is to do the following:

  • Better achieve the wildlife conservation purposes for which the refuge was established.
  • Protect additional fish and wildlife habitat in and adjacent to the refuge.
  • Enhance public opportunities for hunting, fishing, and other wildlife-dependent activities.
  • Improve management of the refuge.
  • Reduce Federal expenditures associated with the administration of the cabin site leases.

The Corps operates the Fort Peck Project (Fort Peck Dam and Fort Peck Lake) in northeastern Montana, nearly all of which is within the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. The lake is the nation’s fourth largest reservoir and backs up from the dam about 135 river miles to the west and south. Surrounding the water surface, the Fort Peck Project encompasses more than 400,000 acres in Fergus, Garfield, McCone, Petroleum, Phillips, and Valley counties. Structures, human occupancy, increased roads, and off-road travel have diminished the quality of grasslands in this area for the sharp-tailed grouse and other grassland-nesting birds. Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge has native prairies, forested coulees, river bottoms, and badlands. Common mammals include mule and white-tailed deer, elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, and beaver.

Four recreation areas on Fort Peck Lake have 367 cabin sites leased by the Corps. The Service determined that the 355 leased sites at Hell Creek, the Pines, Fort Peck, and North Fork of Rock Creek will not create unacceptable inholdings within the refuge and can be sold. However, the Service found that the 12 cabin sites at South Fork of Rock Creek are unacceptable inholdings within the refuge and have not been approved for sale. Retaining these 12 properties and removing them as cabin sites will improve the quality of native wildlife habitat by reducing roads and traffic, thereby reducing human disturbance to wildlife, and rehabilitating disturbed areas.

Image of the plan cover.

The expected proceeds from sale of 355 cabin sites will allow the Service to buy property from willing sellers and protect as much as 10,000–40,000 acres of habitat as additions to Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. The Service will focus purchases on native prairie, riparian habitat, and sagebrush steppe, with the following qualifiers:

  • Native prairie and sagebrush steppe tracts are unbroken (not farmed) and a minimum size of 500 acres.
  • Riparian habitat tracts are on intermittent or perennial streams and include a riparian buffer of 100 feet on each side of the stream.

The priority for acquisition of the above habitat types follows:

  1. Inholdings (areas of private property within the refuge).
  2. Properties that straddle inside and outside the current refuge boundary.
  3. Properties that help block up the refuge (decrease the refuge edge-to-area ratio).
  4. Properties that are adjacent to the refuge boundary, are important habitat where legal access to existing refuge lands is limited, and support public recreation.


Environmental assessment
Environmental assessment 2004 (1 MB PDF)