Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Cooperative Conservation Proposed Near Bigfork

     An exciting collaborative conservation project involving three MALT members has been proposed for the Bigfork area that would create four miles of new community trails and 236 acres of forest conservation and open lands.

  An article in the Kalispell Daily Inter Lake reported The Trust for Public Land, Flathead Land Trust and The Montana Land Reliance announced their plans for the property on the flanks of Swan Hill, which was once slated for development of 17 new residential lots.

     The project is possible thanks to Alan and Cindy Horn, who donated the property in December 2020. The land is currently owned by the Trust for Public Land. Eventually, ownership will be transferred to the Flathead Land Trust, with the Montana Land Reliance  holding a conservation easement. The proposed trail would be accessible through the Bigfork Stage Road about a half-mile from town.

     The Daily Inter Lake article contained some excellent quotes from the land trusts involved in the project:

     Lucas Cain, of The Trust for Public Land, said the project “will also allow for continued forest health management to reduce the risk of wildfire threats which have become so prevalent in our region.”

     “We look forward to engaging with the community as we work towards providing much-needed front-country recreation on this property that otherwise could have been lost to subdivision and development,” said Paul Travis, executive director of the Flathead Land Trust.

     “We have many wonderful memories of our time in Bigfork and the Flathead Valley and are very pleased to have been able to contribute this beautiful property to the community,” the Horns said in a statement.

     The project is in its infancy, with many steps—community involvement, planning and design, fundraising and more—will be needed before project completion. 

     Earlier, in 2017, the Horns donated a 1,100-acre conservation easement held by Flathead Land Trust.

Peets Hill Land Purchase Receives Strong Endorsement

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle editorial board has strongly endorsed the Gallatin Valley Land Trust campaign to purchase a portion of Peets Hill to maintain open space and outdoor recreation opportunities.

From the editorial: Generations from now, community members will look back with reverence on those who had the foresight to acquire land to set aside for parks and trails. We can all become part of that legacy by donating what we can to this effort. Go the organization’s website at gvlt.org and follow the links to learn how you can help.

Kelly Flynn and Family Receive Leopold Conservation Award

Congratulations to the Flynn family of the Hideaway Cattle and Guest Ranch near Townsend. The Flynns are the 2021 Montana Leopold Conservation Award Recipient. 

Kelly Flynn (below, right), a former state legislator, passed away in March 2021, and his family (left) now manages the property. The Leopold award is awarded annually and recognizes agricultural landowners actively committed to a land ethic.

RMEF, USFS and Partners Purchase Elkhorns Land

    The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the US Forest Service, Montana Outdoor Legacy Foundation, and the Montana Fish & Wildlife Conservation Trust collaborated on a $3 million project that led to the Forest Service acquiring 1,418 acres of new public land that will conserve wildlife habitat and provide public access.

     “The land will provide year-round and winter habitat for elk, as well as habitat for deer, bears, wolves, moose, mountain lions, ferruginous hawks, and a variety of grassland birds,” Mike Mueller, RMEF senior lands program manager, said in a Helena Independent Record article.

     The Montana Fish & Wildlife Conservation Trust used its new Assets for Conservation Program to fund the project.

     “It was a great opening act, and all of the partners are looking for the next opportunity,” MOLF Executive Director Mitch King said.

     From the article: 

     The U.S. Forest Service subsequently acquired the property from MFWCT with Land and Water Conservation Funding. At an elevation of 7,000 feet, the property consists of rolling mountains and mountain foothill habitat with a combination of timbered areas and mountain sagebrush and grassland habitat. The East Fork of Dry Creek, Turman Creek, Sand Creek, and Dahlman Gulch flow through the property and help valuable riparian areas and meadows. 

More Great Ag Conservation In the Gallatin Valley

      Gallatin Valley Land Trust, the NRCS ALE Program, Gallatin County Open Land Program and the Flikkema family have partnered to conserve prime farmland in the Amsterdam-Churchill area within Gallatin County.

     It’s another example of the productive partnerships that bring impressive agricultural conservation to the Gallatin Valley that maintains local food production and helps preserve farm and ranch legacies.

     The project is funded by the NRCS ALE Program and the county open land program, and the Flikkemas are making a sizable contribution to the project as well.

     “They’re only getting compensated for about half of what they’re willing to give up on behalf of the community, and I think that is probably the most obvious sign of their interest of doing this on behalf of the community and their family,” said Gallatin Valley Land Trust Executive Director Chet Work in a Bozeman Daily Chronicle article.

     From the article: This easement would conserve the family’s land for agricultural purposes and prevent industrial or commercial activity on the property. A key component of obtaining funding from the NRCS was that the federal department designated 73% of the soil on the land as agriculturally significant, Work said.

Legislative Video Shows History of Montana Conservation Easements

A video prepared by Montana Legislative staff captures the growth of Montana land conservation and conservation easements since the first easement was created in 1976. The video was part of an August 31 presentation to the Financial Modernization & Risk Analysis (MARA) Interim Committee. The committee staff also prepared two reports. Links to the video and reports are presented below.

Dave Meehan: The Man Behind the Wheel of the RMEF Great Elk Tour

     Dave Meehan of Whitefish spends about 229 days a year on the road and has visited all 50 states talking about—and showcasing—what is apparently his favorite topic: Elk.

     Dave drives the truck and trailer for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Great Elk Tour. Dave and the Elk Tour are featured in a Kalispell Daily Inter Lake article, and Dave not only drives the truck for the Elk Tour, he has also built three of the Elk Tour trailers.

     Here are some excerpts from the article:

      While many may want Meehan’s job and may think they could do it, he possesses some skills that make him a perfect fit.

     Meehan came to the Flathead Valley in 1997 from Troy, Pennsylvania, and worked as a cabinet maker for a local wood shop. His woodworking skills have been valuable as the manager of the Great Elk Tour.

     The tour’s theme is “Great Elk Need Great Habitat,” and Meehan spends a lot of time talking about that, as well as many other subjects.

     “I love it,” he said. “I get to go all over the country, talk to like-minded people about elk, hunting, politics, various things.”

     Meehan has two shows left this year. He’ll be at the Jackson Hole Elk Fest on Oct. 2 and at the foundation’s Hunter and Outdoor Christmas Expo in Las Vegas from Dec. 1 to Dec. 11. It will be part of the foundation’s Calcutta Cowboy Revival Show and the Junior World Finals in the Wrangler Rodeo Arena.

Land Trusts Invited to Participate in Possible Soil Health Initiative

Montana land trusts are invited to participate in discussions about a Soil Health Initiative, and here’s more info about the project. A very short survey about participation is available here. A working list of upcoming meetings is available here. For more information contact Cole Mannix. The project asks farmers, ranchers, and other soil stakeholders across the state how a Montana soil initiative could help increase the pace and scale at which land stewards implement voluntary soil health practices.

Iverson Family Receives 2021 Missoula County Land Stewardship Award

Congratulations to the Iverson Ranch!

Denny and Charlotte Iverson, Denny’s brother Les and sister-in-law Sue, the next generation of Iversons…Denny’s daughter, Courtney, son-in-law Jeff, and Les’ son Justin and his wife Jennifer, were named 2021 recipients of the Missoula County Land Stewardship Award. The Iverson family was nominated for the award by Five Valleys Land Trust.

The Iverson Ranch is located in the Potomac Valley and the Iverson family has been active and innovative in agricultural production and agricultural conservation for many years.

“As a family operation, the Iversons have shown leadership in water and soil management for generations,” said Juniper Davis, manager of Missoula County’s Parks, Trails and Open Lands division. “Their work sets an example in sustainable agricultural production, reducing conflict between livestock and predators, and forest stewardship. Their diligent efforts also improve the lands for their neighbors and other families who make a living by working the land.”

Read more on the Missoula County website.

FWP Opens Comment Period for Bad Rock Canyon Project

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking comments on the proposed Bad Rock Canyon conservation and recreation project near Columbia Falls.

From a Flathead Beacon news article:

Known as the Bad Rock Canyon project, the property is located off U.S. Highway 2 and would be preserved as a Wildlife Management Area (WMA). FWP has detailed the proposal in a draft environmental assessment that is open for public comment until 5 p.m. on Sept. 8. A virtual public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 26 at 6 p.m. to provide information on the project and answer questions from the public. The online meeting will be streamed via Zoom online at https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/regions/region1.

FWP’s purchase of the property would “safeguard vital habitat and a travel corridor for wildlife species such as grizzly bears and bull trout,” according to agency officials. The property is located at a geographic pinch point where the Flathead River flows through the narrow Bad Rock Canyon corridor. The land is adjacent to a sizable block of public land and would add to a 12,000-acre network of conserved land along a 43-mile stretch of the Flathead River between Columbia Falls and Flathead Lake.

“This project creates a unique opportunity to protect wildlife habitat and public access on the doorstep of the Gateway to Glacier and along the Flathead River,” FWP Regional Supervisor Jim Williams said. “We appreciate our partners, CFAC and the Flathead Land Trust, for working towards a common goal of land stewardship that will benefit everyone into the future.”

MALT strongly supports the proposed project.

Aerial view of the Bad Rock Canyon Conservation Project, which encompasses 800 acres along the south bank of the Flathead River east of Columbia Falls as seen on March 9, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon