Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Montana Receives Additional ALE Funds

Brian Ohs, Montana ALE Progam Coordinator     

     I have some good news for the Montana ALE Program. MALT members applying for FY21 funding were awarded another $3.46 million last week. This appropriation constituted 40% of the money allotted from the April funding request and along with the initial allocation of $9.11 million will preliminarily allow the NRCS to obligate funding to eight ALE projects this year. A special thank you to NRCS staff and State Conservationist Tom Watson for their tireless efforts to more bring money into the state for private land conservation over the past several months.

     Also, congratulations to Jennifer Hayward, who has been selected to serve as the interim conservationist for the ACEP ALE Program within the Montana NRCS. Jennifer is currently a District Conservationist in Pinedale, Wyoming, and has ALE experience with our neighbors to the south. Jennifer’s detail begins on May 24 and we look forward to working with her in the coming days.

     Finally, I will be reaching out to MALT conservation easement practitioners this week to begin gathering information for the July NRCS State Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) meeting, which will be addressing recommendations for a new definition of “Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance” (GSS). You may recall that during the March STAC meeting, the committee directed the Wildlife and Rangeland subcommittee to craft a more acute definition of GSS. The intent will be to submit comments and recommendations to the STAC by the end of June.

Bad Rock Canyon Conservation Project Closes Funding Gap

So very close…almost there: With nearly $7 million raised toward its fundraising goal, the 772-acre Bad Rock Canyon parcel along the Flathead River near Columbia Falls is poised to gain protection for wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation. Read more in this Flathead Beacon article.

A creek runs through the Bad Rock Canyon Conservation Project area, 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

Registration Open for Prickly Pear Land Trust’s Don’t Fence Me In Trail Run and Challenge

From Prickly Pear Land Trust:

Join hundreds of trail enthusiasts in Helena for the 21st Annual Don’t Fence Me In Virtual Trail Run and Trail Challenge. We just couldn’t let such an important community event go by the wayside, so we’re going virtual again this year. By taking our wanderlust to a whole new level and going “off the grid” of the traditional race structure, we hope that even more folks can continue join in the fun until we can safely hold an in-person race once again.

The turnout and enthusiasm for our first-ever virtual race and challenge last year blew us away. This year we’ve got a few new twists in store.

The annual trail run has been a major community event for years and is a huge fundraiser for Prickly Pear Land Trust’s work. Funds from this race support ongoing projects like the Mount Ascension and Mount Helena land acquisitions, South Hills trail maintenance, and Tenmile Creek Park. This year, it’s once again all about coming together in the ways we can, celebrating our unifying love of fresh air, and just letting off some steam and running wild.

Register now for the Trail Challenge for just $30. As always, kids 17 and under register for free! Sign Fido up for the dog challenge for an additional $5 or, for $5 each, add the 5k, 12k, 20k, 30k, and new Quadfecta.

O’Dell Creek Conservation Project Commemorated With Monte Dolack Painting

This Monte Dolack painting made its debut on May 6 on a ridge above O’Dell Creek, the site of one of Montana’s most impressive conservation and restoration stories. A Bozeman Daily Chronicle article provides information about the painting, commissioned by NorthWestern Energy in celebration of a collaborative restoration project that has received numerous conservation awards. The Montana Land Reliance, The Trust for Public Land and Granger Ranches were leaders in the O’Dell Creek restoration projects.

Conservation Helping to Maintain Heritage of the Flint Creek Valley

Here’s a good article in Montana Lee Newspapers about the NRCS and Five Valleys Land Trust teaming up with landowners for agricultural conservation in the Flint Creek Valley.

From the article:

Maybe some change is for the better.

But those large tracts of historic ranchland going fallow and sprouting a sea of residences isn’t anyone in this story’s idea of acceptable change.

For those who’ve ranched for generations, or those who buy into the life, a conservation easement is proving one way to keep a traditional way of life alive in a changing valley.


A Good Day In Bad Rock Canyon

     Flathead Land Trust held series of “sneak preview” tours showcasing the conservation values of one of its premier ongoing projects – located at Bad Rock Canyon near Columbia Falls – on May 2, and the general reaction from the tour participants was: Wow! 

     FLT executive director Paul Travis (center), with project partners (left) Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (Kris Temple, habitat conservation biologist) and (right) the Flathead Lakers (Constanza von der Pahlen, critical lands director), provided a two-hour, four-mile tour of the property that showcased the wildlife habitat, connectivity, water quality, public recreation and open land benefits of the project. The Flathead River to Lake Initiative is another key project partner. 

     The project is close to the final stages of a $7 million fundraising campaign, and project partners hope to announce some exciting news about project progress later this year. Incredibly, the roughly 700-acre project, located along the Flathead River just outside of Columbia Falls, provides habitat protection for 43 species of special concern including grizzly bears. A Nov. 6, 2020 article has more info about the project.

Five Valleys Land Trust Awarded Regional Conservation Partnership Program Funding

Five Valleys Land Trust was one of two Montana entities to be awarded USDA Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) funding. Five Valleys will receive $3.7 million to work with Flint Creek Valley landowners on agricultural conservation projects.

“RCPP is a tremendous investment in the Flint Creek Valley at a critical time of unprecedented development pressure as well as landowner interest for agricultural land conservation,” says Whitney Schwab, Five Valleys Land Trust Executive Director. “This dedicated fund will allow us to work with our NRCS partners and landowners to support once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that will ensure that agricultural livelihoods and working lands can be adaptive and resilient in perpetuity.”

“RCPP leverages the power of public-private partnerships to focus resources and make a difference for the folks that manage Montana’s working lands,” said Tom Watson, NRCS State Conservationist for Montana. “Taking this chance to build on the successful partnership with Five Valleys Land Trust will bolster the economic and natural resource resiliency of agricultural operations in the Flint Creek Valley.”

More information is available from Five Valleys and from the NRCS. The other Montana project receiving RCPP funding is a Pheasants Forever project in the Northern Great Plains area of Montana.

Five Valleys Land Trust photo