GREAT FALLS (AP) -- The state Land Board has recommended paying $763,000 to buy nearly 900 acres of land adjoining the Ulm Pishkun State Park, a buffalo jump used by American Indians.
''That was No. 1 on Fish, Wildlife & Parks' acquisition list,'' Mary Sexton, director of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, said Tuesday.
The Land Board is expected to complete the $850-an-acre transaction by year's end, she said.
Concerned that developers would buy the land, the All Nations Pishkun Association had been lobbying the state to buy the remainder of the buffalo jump from Eustance Ranch Inc.
''We're just trying to do something right for the future, to preserve this land for our grandchildren,'' said Lyle Heavy Runner, the group's president.
About six years ago, media magnate Ted Turner gave the state title to 1,400 acres of what's believed to be the nation's largest buffalo jump, about 3.5 miles west of Ulm.
But about 250 acres of private land on the north end of the pishkun may be nearly as significant as Turner's property on the south end, said Heavy Runner.
''There's a natural ramp that goes all the way down to the plains along the Sun River,'' Heavy Runner said. ''An Indian could look down on the plains, spot the buffalo, ride down and drive them to the top.''
Right beside that ramp is another cliff over which buffalo were driven for perhaps 1,500 years.
Marilyn and Ron Eustance had proposed a land swap to put the 250 acres on top of the butte in state hands. But the state offered to buy the entire 898 acres they were selling, Ron Eustance said.
''We've had that land in our family since the 1940s,'' Eustance said. ''I think it's a good deal for the government to take it over and protect that land.''
Roger Semler, regional parks manager for the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the state would ''preserve these lands consistent with the Ulm Pishkun State Park because those cliffs are simply an extension of the existing park.''
The land will be purchased with Land Banking Program funds.
The new program allows the state to sell tracts of land to which there is no public access and use that money ''to buy other land that's more accessible to the public or better income producing,'' said Hal Harper, chief policy adviser to Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
DNRC just sold an 80-acre residential site in Kalispell for $6.4 million.
''We have some money in the program, but there have been no expenditures,'' Harper said. ''This would be an excellent way to begin.''