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18-hole golf course planned along Big Hole River causing anxiety, sadness in Twin Bridges

Golf course in progress along the Big Hole River
Posted at 6:18 PM, Jul 09, 2024

TWIN BRIDGES — The construction of a golf course located between Burma Road and the Big Hole River has been something of a mystery for the locals in Twin Bridges as well as people who use the river for recreation and for their livelihood. Some residents are calling for more transparency in this major development in Madison County.

"It seems like all you have to say is 'golf course' and people, you know, I mean—Oh my god! Have you seen it?" says Linda Foy. "I think there’s an issue where there’s not enough public information."

Foy owns a gallery in Twin Bridges featuring her sweeping landscapes of Madison County including the Big Hole River. She says it was a shock to her when she came across the development.

"It’s disturbing, you know, when I drove out there and came up over that hill expecting to see what I’ve always seen and then to see that ... it just hurt my heart," says Foy.

The owner of the property is Buzz Warner, a businessman who splits his time between Utah, Wyoming and Montana. He did not wish to appear on camera but through emails and text messages says his goal is to keep conservation in mind for the golf course that will serve his family, friends and customers.

He also says his golf course will use far less water than the previous ranch land once used. He says he has been working closely with conservation groups and state agencies on the development of the 18-hole golf course.

In a written statement from the Big Hole Watershed Committee's executive director, Pedro Marques says:

"For what it's worth, Buzz has been super transparent with the Watershed Committee from the first moment. Our Governing Board visited with Buzz and we are fully engaged and supportive of all the conservation he is focused on achieving on this property. While a golf course is a new and different use of land in the Big Hole and we do lament the loss of productive land for grazing, we believe strongly in private property rights and a person's ability to manage their land the way they see fit. Buzz is doing way more than most newcomers to the Big Hole to fit into the ethos of cooperation, conservation and giving back to the community that we embody. We look forward to the positive contributions Buzz's place is going to make for the resources of the river."

But others still have concerns about the golf course.

"I’m sure he’s done due diligence on the property. I’ve heard good things but he’s tried you know, make it workable for all interests and hats off, but it still just hurts to the core in my personal case," says Glenn Brackett, owner of Sweetgrass Rods, a fly fishing company that was originally based in Twin Bridges but is now located in Butte.

Brackett got his start in the fly-fishing industry 50 years ago with R.L. Winston Fly Rods. In the small fishing and ranching community of Twin Bridges located near the confluence of the Big Hole, Beaverhead, and Jefferson rivers, Brackett built his own company along with a lifetime of personal memories, including courting his late wife and hosting a wedding party at the property that was once owned by CBS anchor Charles Kuralt.

"If Charles Kuralt was alive today he’d be fighting this, I’m sure, tooth and nail. He would’ve never let that happen," says Brackett.

"It doesn’t live up to the tradition, which is—it’s a ranch area all up and down that whole drainage. It carries that tradition forward and when we brought Winston up here, that was our intention too, to keep that history rolling along with those traditions in mind and that history in mind and it’s just terribly unfortunate that this is taking place and the land has to go through a change. That just breaks my heart to see."

In 2019 Warner was recognized by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department for wildlife conservation efforts on his 6,100-acre property in southwestern Wyoming. There’s no word yet on when the golf course will open and Warner says he is still working on getting the property into a conservation easement.