GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - A Texas oil company that owns mineral rights on the 6,600-acre Boone and Crockett Club's Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch in western Montana is exploring for oil on the wildlife-rich spread on the Rocky Mountain Front.

Houston-based Fairways Exploration and Production is drilling a test well on the ranch owned by the national hunting and conservation organization headquartered in Missoula.

"We got a phone call one day they wanted to come in and do a test well," Tony A. Schoonen, chief of staff for the club, told the Great Falls Tribune (http://bit.ly/t8njc0) in a story published Sunday.

He said the oil exploration is being turned into an opportunity for the club, whose mission includes wildlife research, education and management.

"If we can help demonstrate the right way to do things and keep the integrity of land in place, it will fit right into our demonstration piece," Schoonen said. The club is monitoring wildlife and water quality during the testing.

The club bought the ranch in 1986 on Dupuyer Creek with the goal of demonstrating that a viable cattle operation could also sustain wildlife populations. The club has about 200 head of cattle that share the land with elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and grizzly bears.

"It's quite a spectacular place," Schoonen said. "It is a fragile environment, but we're taking all the precautions necessary to ensure that integrity is maintained and the company has been very, very accommodating in terms of working with us on that."

Schoonen said a test well was drilled on the ranch in 1982, but advances in technology have caused Fairways Exploration and Production to want to try again.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.