Fort Owen backers look to work with new Stevensville ranch owner - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Fort Owen backers look to work with new Stevensville ranch owner

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STEVENSVILLE - The new owner of the historic Fort Owen Ranch is offering to work with Stevensville residents to resolve public access issues causing conflicts, but she also says solutions must be reasonable, and respect private property…

Myla Yahraus, a successful Las Vegas businesswoman, was introduced last week as the new owner of the 167-acre ranch that surrounds the historic Fort Owen site, the first permanent, white settlement in Montana territory.

The ranch’s relationship with Stevensville has been rocky of late, with the present owners shutting down informal public access on the Bitterroot River when they got tired of uncontrolled partying and other problems.

Yahraus wants to work with locals, and state agencies, but also says she’s a “strong advocate” of private property rights. She plans to keep the property as a working cattle ranch when she takes over Jan. 1.

A group just forming to support and improve historic Fort Owen is very excited about having a new owner to work with. Those observations came after the Friends of Fort Owen had a chance to meet Yahraus.

“What she said today is really encouraging, that I think we can work together. We’re very sensitive to the issues that having a state park creates for a private property owner," Friends of Fort Owen member Margaret Gorski said. "But I know that we can work together to solve those issues to the benefit of everyone involved.”

The group is still in the early stages of forming with an eye toward securing partnerships and “dedicated state funding” to make sure the Fort Owen site, structures and artifacts are well preserved.

Specifically, they’d like to see John Owen’s original settlement managed as a larger “Class 1” state park, with better parking and facilities that fit with the working ranch property. And that dialog was already starting with Yahraus after the press conference…

“Myra said some really nice things about being sort of the inheritor of that hundred and sixty seven year history. And she’s appreciative of what that means,: Gorski said. "And so I know when she said that everybody was really excited. Because it is an extremely important piece of property to not only her livelihood, but also the community.”

If you’d like more information about the Friends of Fort Owen, you call Gorski at  (406) 552-2072 or Ruth Baker at (406) 550-3672.

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