Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Donates $100,000 to Combat CWD

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a founding member and sponsor of the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, provided $100,000 in grant funding to assist three research projects promoting the scientific understanding of CWD.

“Though some advancements have been made, there are many questions surrounding the causes and spread of chronic wasting disease,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “These studies will help biologists and game managers better develop science-based disease management practices to benefit elk and other wildlife.”

Five Valleys Celebrating 50 Years of Conservation

The organization that is now known as Five Valleys Land Trust started small, with a $100 grant in 1972 to work on a riverfront park concept. Five decades later, Five Valleys is celebrating its 50th anniversary with close to 100,000 acres conserved across ten counties as a western Montana leader in outdoor recreation projects and partnerships.

From a Five Valleys newsletter: We are humbled to be celebrating 50 amazing years of serving our western Montana community. Guided by our 2021-2024 Conservation Initiatives, we continue to deliver on our core work while seeking opportunities to innovate and collaborate in order to meet current and emergent needs throughout western Montana.

There is much to celebrate about our past five decades, and even more to embrace as we enter our next half-century. As 2022 unfolds we look forward to sharing the many ways in which you can join in to celebrate and support the lands you love. Stay tuned!

Congratulations to everyone at Five Valleys Land Trust, and to all who contributed to its ongoing accomplishments.

Five Valleys Land Trust photo

Flathead Land Trust Ends 2021 By Finalizing Conservation Project

Flathead Land Trust ended 2021 on a high note by completing a 39-acre conservation easement south of Columbia Falls near the Flathead River.

“My sister (Diane) and I were thankful to be able to work with Flathead Land Trust in order to place a conservation easement on our land to assure the property will remain agricultural and that the flora and fauna will remain relatively undisturbed into the future,” said property owner Charles Taylor.

The property includes “prime farmland” and “soils of statewide importance” as determined by the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

MT TNC, Five Valleys Do A+ Work on “B Hill”

      Five Valleys Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy in Montana, and Bonner Property Development have teamed up to maintain public access at the B Hill (“B” for Bonner).

     TNC has owned the 104-acre property for 13 years, and the recent conservation project involved TNC selling the 104-acre property to Bonner Property Development. Immediately prior to the sale, TNC placed a conservation and public access easement on the property that is held by Five Valleys. This public access easement represents a new and exciting extension of Five Valleys’ community open space work. Through this easement, Five Valleys will ensure permanent public access and stewardship in partnership with Bonner Property Development. 



Agricultural Conservation Means Open Lands for the Bitterroot

     Bitter Root Land Trust Executive Director Gavin Ricklefs and Bitterroot Star Publisher Michael Howell recently had a discussion about BRLT’s work and the value of open land conservation, and their conversation generated an article about the history of open lands conservation in the Bitterroot Valley titled Big sky and open space – Bitter Root Land Trust key to preserving it.

     The article touches on BRLT’s growth as an organization and its service to the greater Bitterroot Valley, on local landowner stewardship, Farm Bill agricultural easement programs and the NRCS, and perhaps most importantly, the Ravalli County Open Land Program. The article also focuses on the Burnt Fork area of the valley, a focal point in Ravalli County for land conservation. 

     From the article: “We’ve sure been fortunate that so many landowners have made this decision,” said Bitter Root Land Trust Executive Director Gavin Ricklefs while standing on benchland overlooking the Burnt Fork drainage. “The valley’s going to be better for it.”

     The Bitter Root Land Trust has also leveraged a significant amount of federal funding, through the Farm Bill, aimed at preserving family farms, to make the open lands bond fund money go even further. Currently about one quarter of the original $10 million Open Lands Bond remains. 

     “What’s encouraging to me in times like this, especially in these pulses of activity, is how everybody feels it and the sense that we need to act. People really care about this place and it’s independent of politics, tax bracket, or occupation. There is this thing that we all care about so much. We take that awe and respect for what’s all around us and bring it down to the places we’ve got here that connect us to it,” said Ricklefs.

Vital Ground Foundation Purchases Key Land Parcel in the Yaak Valley

The Vital Ground Foundation announced last week that it has acquired 160 acres of wildlife habitat in the Yaak Valley.
Located directly north of the 315-acre Fowler Creek area that Vital Ground acquired earlier this year, the additional acres will remain undeveloped as open space and wildlife habitat. Under Vital Ground ownership, the area’s stewardship can now be streamlined to best maintain connectivity for wildlife crossing the valley bottom.

Photos: (Right) The Fowler Creek addition includes rich wetland habitat for grizzly bears, wolves, elk, moose and other wildlife crossing the Yaak Valley bottom. (Photo by Mitch Doherty/Vital Ground Foundation)

(Below) Peeled bark shows evidence of bear traffic at the Fowler Creek addition. Grizzlies and black bears peel tree bark to eat the rich cambium layer beneath.

Bozeman City Commission Approves Peets Hill Funding

     More good news for Gallatin Valley recreation and conservation.

    The Bozeman City Commission approved an allocation of $800,000 to Gallatin Valley Land Trust to purchase 30 acres on Peets Hill to protect one of Bozeman’s most popular recreation areas.

     The Bozeman Chronicle reports the funding is broken down into two purposes…an immediate  $485,000 approval to purchase the 30 acres and $315,000 over the next two years for trail improvements and other management costs.

     “Peets Hill has been referred to as Bozeman’s sidewalk in the sky,” Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham said during the meeting. “I believe that this action tonight helps extend and protect in perpetuity that precious natural feature.”

     From the article: 

     The land trust raised $800,000 during a massive fundraising campaign this fall that involved nearly 700 donors. GVLT Executive Director Chet Work said during the meeting that the nonprofit has never had a fundraising campaign go so big and so quickly.

     “This is something that speaks to the people of Bozeman from all parts of the city,” Work said.


Vital Ground Conserves 100 Acres Near Whitefish

     The Vital Ground Foundation and a cooperative landowner have partnered to conserve 100 acres of land termed “a habitat-rich zone that helps connect wildlife in and around Glacier National Park with those farther west in the Salish and Cabinet mountain ranges of Montana’s northwestern corner.”

     The conservation easement will maintain open land, protect wildlife habitat and protect a key connectivity area for wildlife in the fast-growing area around Whitefish. 

     “This area is critical for wildlife and wildlife movement,” says Mitch Doherty, Conservation Director for Vital Ground. “But it’s also still quiet and scenic, with that rural feel that we’re losing in too many places throughout western Montana right now.”

     Major support for the Tamarack Creek project came from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the PDJ Family Foundation and numerous individual contributors.

Initial Green Light Given for Gallatin Valley Easements

       The Gallatin County Commission gave initial unanimous approval of six proposed conservation easements through the county’s open land program that would conserve 7,200 acres of important Gallatin Valley agricultural lands.

     The initial approval came on Dec. 14, after the commission considered four project applications by  Gallatin Valley Land Trust and two from The Montana Land Reliance. 

    The six projects will now go to the Gallatin County Open Lands Program Board before a final decision by the county commission. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle article indicates there is enough funding for all six projects, with some additional funding rolled over into 2022.

     The proposed conservation easements highlighted in the Chronicle all featured impressive agricultural and wildlife conservation benefits.

     Chad Klinkenborg, lands program manager at Gallatin Valley Land Trust, said that the Gallatin Madison North Ranch proposed easement is within five miles of eight existing conservation easements held by GVLT which combined have conserved around 5,000 acres of agricultural land.

     The property was described as critical winter range for elk. An elk herd that has frequented the property has grown substantially over the years.

     The Chronicle reported that The Rimkus Property, a conservation easement proposed by MLR, is home to a large variety of animal species, including 47 species of birds and seven species of bats that are of concern, said Kathryn Kelly, MLR’S Greater Yellowstone manager