Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

New Research Provides Glimpse Into Transboundary Pronghorn Migration

Migrating pronghorn don’t have an easy road, even if times they actually use roads. An article in Lee Newspapers provides information from a new study about a pronghorn herd that has made roughly the same migratory trek between what is now eastern Montana and Alberta for 30,000 years, and documents the kind of habitats needed for the migration to be successful as well as the barriers that make the annual trek so challenging.

The Nature Conservancy in Montana is among groups and agencies that have been working with landowners in eastern Montana on projects such as wildlife friendly fencing to foster wildlife movements.

 

LWCF and GAOA Enter 2021 With Good News and Full Funding

      While there was bad news on the syndication front, the final omnibus appropriations bill Congress passed for FY21 contained good news for implementation of and funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Great American Outdoors Act.

     From a National LWCF Coalition email: Congress has done it right, rejecting the Administration’s flawed proposal in favor of balanced allocations among LWCF subprograms, the full original project list we requested, and in fact more than $900 million for conservation and recreation! This is a great reminder that the $900M authorized for LWCF was always intended to be a floor, not a ceiling, and Congress is still free to add to it. 

     CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL ON THIS CAPSTONE TO AN AMAZING YEAR OF SUCCESS. It is all a result of your longstanding, meticulous, incredibly strong efforts on both sides of the aisle to put LWCF on this path to realize its true promise, and empower all the phenomenal work we know it can do. We’re so excited to push this potential to the max starting in 2021!

     From an E&E News article: Tom Cors, the director of government relations for lands at the Nature Conservancy, agreed and said: “The bill affirms the full potential of the Great American Outdoors Act and puts it in full swing. We are grateful Congress provided balanced funding for all outdoor spaces.” 

     The entire text of the Department of Interior portion of the bill is available here. Projects in Montana identified by lists provided by the National LWCF Coalition include: Lower Musselshell River Conservation Project (BLM), Montana National Wildlife Refuges and Conservation Areas (USFWS), Kootenai Forestlands Conservation Project (USFS, Forest Legacy), Bad Rock Canyon Conservation Project (USFS, Forest Legacy), and Lolo Trails (USFS). 

Land Board Unanimously Approves Proposed Somers Beach State Park

     The Montana Land Board unanimously approved Montana FWP acquisition of 106 acres that will ultimately become Somers Beach State Park, a proposal led by Flathead Land Trust that expands and solidifies public access to the north shore of Flathead Lake. FLT has organized support for the project, working with FWP and the Sliter family (current owners of the property) to move the proposal through to land board approval.

     From the Flathead Beacon article: The proposal on Flathead Lake’s north shore east of Somers would codify access to a popular half-mile, 106-acre sandy expanse that has long conducted through a handshake agreement with its owners. Under the proposal, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) would acquire the land for the creation of a state park, and as a way to permanently conserve wildlife habitat while continuing to allow public recreation.

     The Sliter family that owns the property began eyeing plans to protect the area earlier this year, and is working in concert with FWP and the nonprofit Flathead Land Trust in an effort to finalize the deal, which has gained broad support. 

Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Projects Advance

     The Dec. 7 MALT newsletter reported that the Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team agreed to fully fund three proposed sage grouse conservation projects (conservation easements), and that four additional easements were approved at less than full funding, with an uncertainty of if those four projects remained viable.

     The good news is that on Dec. 14 MSGOT learned The Montana Land Reliance and the landowners it partnered with, and The Nature Conservancy in Montana and the landowners it partnered with, were able to make the projects work within the confines of a roughly 18 percent reduction in requested funding. All told, in 2020 MSGOT approved about $4.2 million to permanently conserve over 24,000 acres of important sage grouse habitat, thanks to MLR, TNC and landowners supportive of conservation.

MLR’s Future Montana Committee Shares Conservation Perspectives

     What does conservation mean to you?

     Several members of The Montana Land Reliance’s Future Montana Committee answer that question in a new video posted on social media and on the MLR website. The video features lush images of conservation benefits such as wildlife habitat, clean water and agricultural production, and thoughtful responses from folks like Gusty Clarke, Cole Mannix, Errol Rice (shown here), Ben Christensen, Jess Peterson, Brian McCurdy, Nick Bucklin, Freddy Avis and Jessie Wiese. 

Fish and Wildlife Commission Approves Lost Trail Conservation Easement

      The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved two – and endorsed two – high-impact conservation projects at its Dec. 10 meeting, including the 7,256-acre Lost Trail Conservation Easement. 

     The Trust for Public Land has been a project leader on the Lost Trail effort, which involves using funding from the USFS Forest Legacy Program, Habitat Montana Program and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust to purchase a conservation easement from Southern Pine Plantations (former Weyerhaeuser forest lands) that will be held by Montana FWP. The Kalispell Daily Inter Lake reported significant support for the project, which allows continued public access, active forest management and protection of wildlife habitat while precluding subdivisions on the property.

     Jim Vashro of Flathead Wildlife was among the supporters of the project. “It will more than double the effectiveness of the Lost Trail Refuge,” he said. “We hope this easement will begin continued cooperation to establish future easements in the area.”

     Other projects approved by the commission include the Everson Bench Conservation Easement. Two projects endorsed by the commission include the Currant Creek Conservation Easement and the Big Snowy Mountains Wildlife Management Area Land Project.

     For more information about the projects visit the FWP website. 

Innovation at Pine Street Woods

Kaniksu Land Trust’s new director of communications, Marcy Timblin, writes in the Bonner County Daily Bee that 2020 was a year of land management and organizational innovation for KLT at Pine Street Woods and elsewhere. At Pine Street Woods, a KLT-owned property managed for recreation, education and conservation, KLT and partners worked to reduce noxious weeds with the help of Avista, goats, sheep, llamas and yaks to trim the flower heads of blooming hawkweed and knapweed.  

A young shepherd provides assistance with livestock rotation in the PSW meadow. (Photo courtesy FIONA HICKS PHOTOGRAPHY)

Bitter Root Land Trust Gives Thanks for Community Support

     Bitter Root Land Trust found a personal, and a safe, way to express gratitude to community supporters. The photo below shows Knox and Ike Pruitt as Bitter Root Land Trust volunteers who delivered “Thank You grams” to the land trust’s donors on Dec. 6.

     “We wanted to figure out a way to personally connect with our supporters this year while at the same time keeping everyone safe,” said Lauren Rennaker, the trust’s development director. “While we had to pivot away from the normal annual events we hold, we knew we wanted to have some face time with our supporters to be able to show how much they mean to all of us.”

Flathead Land Trust Salutes Past Leaders

     The Flathead Land Trust’s Virtual Holiday Party & Conservation Leadership Award event was released on Dec. 10, and in addition to highlighting two of FLT’s major ongoing projects – Somers Beach and Bad Rock Canyon – FLT also presented Flathead Land Trust Conservation Leadership Awards to former FLT executive directors Marilyn Wood (left) and Susan How. An 18-minute video (filmed at Somers Beach) documents the conservation and recreation importance of the two projects, and also salutes the incredible and lasting contributions from Marilyn and Susan. Congratulations to Susan and Marilyn!