Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Kaniksu Land Trust, Pine Street Woods
 Receive Trails Achievement Award

     Congratulations, Kaniksu Land Trust!

    Pine Street Woods has been chosen by the Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) as one of the recipients of its 2020 Tom Petri Recreational Trails Program Annual Achievement Awards. The awards – honoring former U.S. Representative Tom Petri (WI) – recognize outstanding use of Recreational Trails Program (RTP) funds. Specifically, Pine Street Woods was recognized in the Multiple-Use Management and Corridor Sharing category.

    Kaniksu Land Trust and Pine Street Woods received the award during an October 22 award Live Facebook ceremony. The photo is of KLT executive director Katie Cox accepting the award.

     KLT thanked and congratulated “our entire community of partners, volunteers and community members who have made Pine Street Woods a nationwide success story.” KLT is based in Sandpoint, ID, and works in Montana’s Sanders County. Pine Street Woods is a 180-acre community forest devoted to recreation, conservation and education, and is a widely-recognized asset for Sandpoint residents.


FLT Conservation Down on the Bayou

       Flathead Land Trust has completed a 37-acre conservation easement on Goodrich Bayou, a back channel to the Flathead River. Flathead Land Trust and project partners in the River2Lake Initiative have long prioritized conservation projects along the Flathead River.

     A recent River2Lake newsletter provided information about the donated Goodrich Bayou easement and landowner Chrysta Bourne. The property is frequented by various waterfowl, otters, bears, herons and other wildlife species.

     The River2Lake newsletter article ends with: A large portion of the property also has prime farming soils if irrigated, an important resource in the Flathead Valley. Special thanks to the landowner for the conservation gift to the Flathead community!

Support Strong For TPL Efforts Near Missoula

      Missoula County Commissioners last week voted to endorse the Missoula Valley Frontcountry Access Project – an eventual transfer of 18,000 acres of Southern Pine Plantations land into the Lolo National Forest in the Deep Creek area – and a Missoula Current article provides information about this project and other ongoing forest conservation and access efforts involving The Trust for Public Land, USFWS, USFS, Montana FWP, and Southern Pines.

      The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a key funding source for the project. Two quotes within the article highlight the value of the Frontcountry project:

     “It may take 20 years, but someday, there will be 150,000 people living in Missoula County and the urban area will be a lot larger and we’ll need more recreational areas than we have,” county commissioner Josh Slotnik said. “And someday, Deep Creek will be more than a place you go to burn an appliance or shoot some tires. It’ll actually be a place to go mountain biking, hiking, (and) all those other outdoor pursuits. And this is a big step in making that a reality.”

     “We knew that it was really important both recreation ground for the Missoula community as well as tons of habitat for wildlife and tons of rich water resources,” TPL field representative Catherine Schmidt said. “SPP, at the time that they purchased Weyerhaeuser’s land in Montana, had also purchased this block of land. After working with them for a little bit on Lolo and after making sure they were comfortable working with us and the Forest Service, we approached them to see if they would also be willing to work with us on this Missoula Valley Frontcountry Access Project. Fortunately, they said yes.”

     The article also contains comments from a Plains, MT resident who expresses concerns about other SPP lands being sold and subdivided, with resulting open space, wildlife habitat and recreational access lost.

Flint Creek Conservation Opportunity

      On a blustery Oct. 16 morning, Five Valleys Land Trust held a get-together on the JT Ranch not far from Philipsburg in the Flint Creek Valley.

     The purpose of the meeting was a presentation by Five Valleys about their pending Flint Creek Valley Regional Conservation Partnership Program application, and the value of the Five Valleys proposal to the valley’s culture and identity, NRCS RCPP goals, local agriculture producers, Granite County’s economy, wildlife habitat, and more. Participating in the discussion were (left to right) Tim Hilmo and Joleen Meshnik from JT Ranches; Montana State Conservationist Tom Watson; Five Valleys project manager Sarah Richey; FVLT executive director Whitney Schwab; Jerry Shows, assistant state conservationist (programs); and Allen Persinger, assistant state conservationist (easements). Also participating were Brian Ohs, Montana ALE coordinator; Bret Bledsoe, NRCS district conservationist, Philipsburg Field Office; Kelley Barkell, NRCS program specialist; Five Valleys philanthropy director Ramey Kodadek, and Glenn Marx from MALT. MALT wishes to expressly thank Tom Watson and the NRCS crew and Tim Hilmo and Joleen Meshnik for participating in the meeting. 


GVLT Announces Bear Canyon Project

      Gallatin Valley Land Trust officially launched its Bear Canyon Trail and Conservation Project, which when completed will conserve wildlife habitat and create a new trailhead to access 6,500 acres of public land. A centerpiece of the project is the purchase of 18 acres of private land for GVLT to own and manage to help balance wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation in the area.

     GVLT’s short video does a good job illustrating the value of the project to area residents, and is also an effective fundraising medium for the project.

     GVLT reports a community fundraising effort will start in the coming weeks and that GVLT will also be pursuing a partnership with DNRC to envision, plan and support balanced wildlife and recreation management on the Gallatin Front.

“Dream Come True”

by Glenn Marx, MALT Executive Director

     Unanimous vote by the Ravalli County Commission. Unanimous vote by the Montana Board of Land Commissioners. Broad, strong and vocal financial support by local and statewide project partners. A public agency with a consistent vision and a dedication to that vision. A landowner with unshakable determination. A land trust with an undaunted commitment.

     Put all that together, and you have the new WW White Memorial Fishing Access Site on the West Fork of the Bitterroot River.

     A Ravalli Republic article captures the joy, accomplishment, cooperation and value of the work by Bitter Root Land Trust, the patience and long-lasting faith in the project by landowner Marty Stromberg, and the tremendous perpetual recreational opportunities the new fishing access site provides.

     The Oct. 6 celebration – just like the project itself – brought out the best in the partners and the project. At a time when there are so many things wrong in the world, cooperative projects like this remind us there are many things right in the world, as well.

Bitter Root Land Trust President Peggy Ratcheson and her golden retriever, Sophie, at the new WW White Memorial FAS. Perry Backus photo

Vital Ground Promotes “One Landscape Initiative

      The Vital Ground Foundation’s “One Landscape Initiative” highlights Vital Ground’s focus on cooperative work with landowners on key connectivity and wildlife corridors.

     A five-minute video, directed by Eric Ian, showcases the partnerships, landowners, habitat and purpose of the One Landscape Initiative.

     Based on insight from more than 60 federal, tribal and state wildlife experts, the One Landscape Initiative aims to protect 188,000 crucial acres on privately-owned lands that link the region’s wild cores. From central Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front Range to the Kootenai Valley of Idaho’s northern Panhandle, the new film highlights the partnerships that make the vision possible, profiling several landowners who have partnered with Vital Ground to voluntarily limit development and protect habitat on their properties through conservation agreements.

Vital Ground photo by Kali Becher

Kaniksu Land Trust Helps Sandpoint Schools Outdoor Learning

The Lake Pend Orielle School District has improved its outdoor learning opportunities thanks to Kaniksu Land Trust, the Land Trust Alliance and other project partners.

KLT helped two elementary schools purchase tents to help outdoor learning and to assist schools cope with the COVID pandemic.

From the Bonner County Daily Bee article:

The reason for the outdoor spaces is twofold, Katie Cox, KLT executive director, said. In part, it is to reduce transmission risks for children who are in class. Many of the classrooms don’t have good ventilation, she said, which could increase students’ and teachers’ risk of catching COVID-19.

The outdoor classrooms are also a benefit to students academically, she said. LPOSD teachers have reported students generally behave and focus better in outdoor settings, Cox said, and there is increased attendance on days when there is outdoor learning.

Dave Kretzschmar, KLT education director, works to assemble one of the outdoor learning tents Tuesday afternoon at Farmin-Stidwell Elementary School. Photo by RACHEL SUN

GVLT Completes Paradise Valley Conservation Easement

     Gallatin Valley Land Trust has finalized its 114th conservation easement, a donated easement along the Yellowstone River in the Paradise Valley.

     From a GVLT Facebook post:

     This is our fifth conservation project with visionary rancher Tim Solso. The new donated conservation easement is adjacent to his 590 acre protected ranch and is situated on a steep bluff overlooking the Yellowstone River. If you’ve spent any time in Paradise Valley, you’ve no doubt enjoyed the protected scenic viewshed of Solso’s Legacy Ranch between Mallards Rest and Lock Leven on the Yellowstone River. An old dilapidated home will be removed from the parcel and management will be incorporated into the larger ranch, providing unobstructed views of the Absaroka Mountains for every floater or fisherman on the river and every driver or passenger on US 89-South. Thank you so much for the generosity of the Solso Family and Legacy Ranch  for helping us protect this highly scenic and important ranch in perpetuity.


Craig and Conni French Receive Leopold Award

     Conni and Craig French, ranchers in north central Montana, have received the 2020 Montana Leopold Conservation Award, and among the ways they are recognized is a really well done five minute video available on The Nature Conservancy in Montana’s Facebook page (Oct. 5. Post). Conni is a TNC Montana Trustee.

     The video opens with some dramatic drone footage of the French’s C Lazy J Ranch near Malta, and both Conni  and Craig do an excellent job of explaining their vision of stewardship and holistic ranch management.

     The Leopold Conservation Award is one of the country’s most prestigious conservation awards. Congratulations to the French family!