Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Kaniksu Land Trust Looks to Re-Open the “Sled Hill”

The Bonner County Daily Bee recently reported that Kaniksu Land Trust is making significant progress toward a community outdoor recreation project that would open up a historic ski and sled hill at Sandpoint.

From the article:

Now, thanks to supporters of the Kaniksu Land Trust who have the 48-parcel under contract, the land trust will have time to fundraise toward purchase of the property.

“This is such a win for our community, we are so grateful for the support of our partners. What we have needed all along the way is time and having the property under contract and secure now gives us that,” Katie Cox, KLT executive director, said. “The work ahead of us is going to take the entire community. We know that together, we can do it.”

Set along Pine Street Loop, the 48-acre parcel includes forest, meadows, a large pond, and structures associated with a historic homestead. The most notable feature is the large hill that has served as a community recreation site for a half century.


Prickly Pear Land Trust Proposes Missouri River Corridor Conservation Easement

Prickly Pear Land Trust is proposing to work with the Juedeman family and the Lewis and Clark County Open Land Program to conserve nearly 4,000 acres of open land along an iconic stretch of the Missouri River near Craig.

“When our parents first became stewards of the land we call the Canyon Cattle Ranch, houses were few and far between, and working ranches were the norm. Since then there has been a tremendous amount of development near Craig, and our ranch is one of the last remnants of the largely wild places of our youth,” the family said in a statement. “Our family is united in wanting to see that this wildlife- and vista-rich landscape remains undisturbed by development, and stays the paradise we first laid eyes on 50 years ago.”

The Nature Conservancy Finalizes Big Sheep Watershed Project

The Nature Conservancy, with key partners…the NRCS (2018 Farm Bill ALE Program), and Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program…have closed a 3,400-acre conservation easement in southwest Montana that maintains agricultural production and conserves wildlife habitat.

“I am deeply grateful for the trust and patience of Roger and Carrie Peters, whose commitment to Montana’s ranching heritage and love for this corner of Montana carried them through the easement process. Such tenacity and values are instrumental in keeping Montana wild and working,” said Jim Berkey, TNC High Divide Headwaters Director.

Montana Land Reliance Conserves Eastern Montana Grasslands

Some of the most prolific, intact grasslands in Montana can be found along Highway 200 between Jordan and Circle. This prairie landscape is home to a rich tradition of ranching, as well as abundant wildlife, including the greater sage grouse, pronghorn, Baird’s sparrow, Sprague’s pipit, McCown’s longspur, and lark bunting to name a few.
MLR is proud to have partnered with Soda Creek Ranch to protect 13,000 acres of exceptional sagebrush and grassland habitat in McCone County. The easement ensures that this critical area of habitat in eastern Montana will remain available for ranching and wildlife habitat forever. Special thanks to the work of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) program in helping to conserve agricultural land across Montana.

Vital Ground Foundation Working on Wildlife Roadway Crossings

From The Vital Ground Foundation website:

A grizzly bear dubbed “Lingenpolter” by local biologists caught the attention of many in Montana and elsewhere last year. Using a GPS tracker, biologists watched as the young male bear repeatedly attempted and failed to cross Interstate 90. They followed Lingenpolter’s movements in an area between Missoula and Butte, watching as he traveled for miles alongside the interstate and tried to cross it an estimated 46 times from fall of 2020 to spring of 2021.

Lingenpolter’s story illustrates an issue facing many animals in Montana and beyond: highways, interstates and other major roadways fragment habitats, causing isolation as well as vehicle collisions that are often fatal.

Wildlife crossing infrastructure offers a solution.

See the full article for more information.

RMEF Partners for Conservation, Public Access, in the Big Hole

     The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has teamed up with the BLM and a conservation-minded landowner to do what RMEF does best: Conserve wildlife habitat and enhance public access. 

     Using the Land and Water Conservation Fund Emergency Inholding Program, RMEF and the BLM worked to secure a 40-acre Big Hole area inholding, which enhances public access to 1,600 acres of public land.

     “No matter the size, every piece of elk habitat counts,” said Kyle Weaver, president and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

     “The Johnson Creek acquisition will maintain important habitat connectivity for wildlife and improve public land access for recreationists,” added Lindsey Babcock, Butte field manager of BLM’s Western Montana District.

PHOTO: The RMEF and BLM teamed up with landowners to acquire a parcel about 10 miles northwest of Wise River that is important winter range for elk, mule deer and moose. RMEF Photo   

Montana Land Reliance Adds to Gallatin County Land Conservation

The Montana Land Reliance has received funding and county commission approval to finalize a 230-acre conservation easement near Manhattan that is in a 15,000-acre conservation easement neighborhood.

From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle article:

The county commissioners agreed to put $409,377 from the Open Lands Program toward the Casey Farm project conservation easement. The project has been in the works since 2020, when the Open Lands Board initially approved the funding.

The easement will protect the land from subdivision, and ensure that agricultural activity — like growing wheat, alfalfa and providing grazing pasture for cattle — will continue uninterrupted by future development.

An abundance of wildlife inhabits the property, according to documents submitted to the Gallatin County Commission.

White tail, mule deer, moose and elk traverse the property. Several species of bird can be found there, including 10 bird species of concern — like bald and golden eagles. The land is also designated as a bat roosting area, and supports around five bat species of concern



Sage Grouse Oversight Team Announces New Grant Cycle

     The Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team (MSGOT), managers of Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program, met on Feb. 11 and unanimously approved a new grant cycle for Sage Grouse Program Stewardship Grants. MALT members The Montana Land Reliance and The Nature Conservancy in Montana are major sage grouse conservation partners with MSGOT and work with landowners on perpetual conservation easements to conserve sage grouse habitat  and generate mitigation credits. The amount of funding available in the new grant cycle will be in the $5.3 million range.

     Since the program’s first sage grouse conservation grant awards in 2016, MSGOT has funded 15 habitat conservation projects that have conserved more than 90,000 of sage grouse habitat. The $9.6 million in state sage grouse funds have been leveraged by $25 million in matching funds from other programs, including the Farm Bill’s Agricultural Land Easement program.

     MSGOT also approved term conservation leases within the potential grant awards, and indicated conservation easements that have a restoration or enhancement component are particularly attractive to the program.

    Brad Hansen, MLR’s eastern manager, provided comments at the meeting.