Greg and I are really excited to announce that we've launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for our first short film, The Durfees, which follows Doug Krings and his twelve year-old daughter Emma on her first elk hunt on a piece of public land at the center of a land exchange controversy. The Durfee Hills, which lie in the shadow of the Big Snowy Mountains, contain upwards of 3,000 acres of public land—but the public sections are entirely engulfed in private land that belongs to a pair of billionaire brothers from Texas named Dan and Farris Wilks, who want the public section of the Durfees for their own. Since 2012, the Wilks—who possess a combined fortune of over $3 billion and own nearly 400,000 acres in Montana and Idaho—have been proposing various land exchange options to the Bureau of Land Management, seeking to trade ranchland in the Missouri Breaks area for the public land in the Durfees. As far as Doug Krings and his allies in the outdoors community are concerned, trading away the Durfees would be a disaster—because it would deprive the Montana public of access to a herd of some 5,000 elk, one of the largest herds in the state, not to mention the freedom to enjoy the spectacular beauty of the Durfees region.
So far, Krings and his supporters seem to have effectively staved off the land exchange—the BLM said in January that it doesn't currently have the resources to consider the proposal. But the Wilks are as determined to secure the exchange as Krings is to defend it, and we expect the saga to continue. But our film isn't just about the Durfees—it's about the changing demographics of land ownership in the rural west, and the growing spectrum of challenges confronting public land access in our time. If you depend on public land for fishing, hunting, skiing, backpacking, horseback riding, camping, or anything at all, we hope you'll support our campaign.
We've talked to people on both sides of the land exchange, and we're planning to continue filming into summer 2016. We'll finish production by summer's end and be ready to launch the film to the public at the start of hunting season. We launched the Kickstarter because we've been funding the project entirely on our own so far, and we'd like to devote a full month to production this summer, as well as hire a graphics team and a soundtrack composer to complete the film.
We believe that filmmakers and journalists who live and work in Montana, and enjoy the state's infinite outdoor potential, have a responsibility to devote some of their energy to issues that matter to Montanans. The Durfees is our first short film dedicated to a controversial local issue, and it will set the model for future Mission: Montana productions.