Lee Poole, Joe Vujovich and Keith Brown purchase 25,000 acres in coveted Jack Creek drainage. This Montana property was once part of Burlington Northern's vast western holdings. Spun off to Plum Creek Lumber Company (the timber division of BN), the Jack Creek property was a highly coveted piece of land when it came available in the early 1990s.
Ennis locals Lee Poole & Joe Vujovich had hearfelt connections to this property and envisioned a unique future for the Montana land -- preserving the balance while providing first-class private ownership opportunities. The Jack Creek Drainage is a vital east-west corridor between the Gallatin and Madison Mountain Ranges and a key wildlife corridor. Several entities, including the Nature Conservancy, vied for the property in a very public battle.
Beginning with the purchase of the Jack Creek property, Moonlight began a strict program to rehabilitate these lands and restore crucial wildlife habitat. Critical to this program was to close the Jack Creek area to hunting and public access. This allowed Moonlight the time to undertake a census of the area's wildlife numbers. The data was clear-Moonlight was home to most species of large animals in the Northern Rockies. However, their habitat was in danger and Moonlight was set on assuring its future.
Selective limited harvesting of vulnerable timber stands commenced with Moonlight's purchase. Grasses and new tree growth quickly began to thrive with the creation of open parks. This new combination of shelter, open parks, grasslands, and vast water resources created a diversity that has improved wildlife habitat. Reforestation, habitat enforcement and riparian protection projects were conducted to assure Moonlight's goal of preserving this critical wildlife refuge.
Moonlight's efforts have not gone unnoticed. Moonlight has been featured in Reader's Digest and featured in the book Environmental Capitalism: Doing Good While Doing Well. These articles spoke of Moonlight Basin Ranch's revolutionary approach to land management and protection of Montana's rich heritage. Moonlight Basin Ranch has also worked closely with local and regional wildlife experts and conservation organizations. This joint effort has culminated in the creation of a preserve unlike any other in North America.
As the popularity of skiing reached new heights in the 1990s, Moonlight took advantage of its proximity to Big Sky Ski & Summer Resort by purchasing two ski lifts. These lifts were the critical part of ushering in a new phase of development—ski-in ski-out properties. The Pony Express and Iron Horse lifts provided access to current and future developments, including Diamond Hitch, Saddle Ridge, and Cowboy Heaven.
Moonlight Basin Ranch entered the business of providing first-class recreation properties with the creation of Ulerys Lakes and Timber Ridge communities. Ulerys Lakes are named after Jake Ulery, a colorful character from Montana’s past who took refuge from the U.S. Army in Jack Creek. Jake hatched an ambitious plan to divert Gallatin Canyon water into the Madison drainage. Using timbers and dirt to construct the dams, he increased the holding capacity of nearby lakes. His mission failed, but Jake left behind a legacy in Jack Creek. Moonlight created 23 premium 20-acre tracts in and around lakes that Jake Ulery harnessed almost a century before. These parcels, along with tracts in Timber Ridge, quickly became popular with visitors to the area. Centered around the vision of protecting wildlife corridors, Ulerys Lakes owners received 20 acres, but could only build on a designated 2-acre building site. By preserving the rest of the area, Moonlight created a new model of mountain development.
In 1998, Moonlight Basin Ranch conceived of creating a heart for its bourgeoning developments. In 2000, Moonlight Basin Ranch announced the culmination of these dreams with the Moonlight Lodge. Conceived as a place for residents to find peace and relaxation and for Big Sky visitors to explore, the Lodge has successfully accomplished both. Designed by Locati Architects of Bozeman, the Moonlight Lodge offers the area's finest services. These include a Restaurant, Bar and Deli, the Moonlight Spa, fine retail shopping is available and an ice skating rink.