Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Enshrined: Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame

by Glenn Marx, MALT Executive Director

     Congratulations to the 2020 Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame inductees, some of whom have strong land trust ties, and all of whom have made significant contributions to Montana conservation.

     The Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame website has more information about the Hall itself, about the Dec. 5, 2020 Awards Ceremony and about the impressive list of past inductees. The virtual ceremony starts at 6:30 PM, and while it is free, donations are encouraged, with a donation of $25 or more receiving a printed event program featuring the inductees.

     Here is the Class of 2020:

Stewart Monroe Brandborg

Bruce Farling

John & Carol Gibson

George Bird Grinnell

Hal Harper

Dale Harris

Gayle Joslin

Bob Kiesling

Paul Roos

Gene Sentz

Richard Vincent

Vince Yannone

     “It is a remarkable list of individuals whose accomplishments span a lifetime of keeping watch over Montana’s natural wonders,” said Thomas Baumeister, executive director of the Montana OHF. “The inductees cover a range of personalities who worked in the public and private sectors, and more times than not on their own, to advance what could be termed Montana’s conservation consciousness.”

PPLT: Things Looking Good At Sevenmile Creek

      Mary Hollow and Prickly Pear Land Trust sent a recent email update to supporters that provided current information on a broad range of PPLT projects and organizational efforts under three headlines of Our People, Our Home and Our Work. 

      The information updated supporters, partners and donors about PPLT personnel changes and accomplishments, PPLT’s purchase of the building it is located in, and a list of trail and conservation project accomplishments. 

     One of PPLT’s ongoing conservation efforts is at Sevenmile Creek on the west end of Helena. Here’s the PPLT report: At Our Sevenmile restoration project, we are reaching nearly $1 million in investment and have seen incredible returns already. Our restoration site survived the Birdseye fire in early September, 330 of the 350 acres we own. We are encouraged to see the incredible benefits of riparian restoration and the wetlands which acted as a natural fire break- we didn’t intend for the resiliency test that it saw this fall, but…it worked. This fire response will only serve to increase the value of this project site as an educational resource and outdoor classroom. Experts anticipate the grassland and vegetation will come back more robust and vibrant, including a higher diversity of wildflowers and natives. We are investing significantly in reseeding to keep ahead of the weeds in the spring. This was an unforeseen cost, but one we feel is critical to maintaining the incredible progress on this land.

GVLT Board Member Named to Terrafirma Members Committee

     Meghann McKenna, a Gallatin Valley Land Trust board member, has been named to the Terrafirma Members Committee as a representative from the Mountains and Plains Region. Terrafirma was created in 2011 (with significant help from Montanans like Andy Dana and Paul Sihler) to help land trusts defend their conserved lands from legal challenge. Terrafirma is owned by its members to insure the costs of upholding conservation easements and fee lands held for conservation purposes when they have been violated or are under legal attack, and to provide information on risk management to those land trusts.

     Meghann has experience in insurance, estate planning and financial services, and she works in partnership with her father John and other associate agents at McKenna Financial.

     Congratulations, and thank you, Meghann.

RMEF Plays Critical Role in Expansion of Garrity Mountain Wildlife Management Area

Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame inductee Chris Marchion, from Anaconda, recently walked through the land – and walked a Montana Standard reporter through the story – of the most recent expansion of the Garrity Mountain Wildlife Management Area. The article details the history and conservation values of the property back to Teddy Roosevelt days, and ends with a final key piece still needed within the land management puzzle.

The article also contains this key paragraph: Mike Mueller of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was central to the latest deal, and Marchion was among the conservationists who gained community support and funding to work out the deal with FWP and the landowners this go around. The Montana Land Board unanimously approved the deal this past summer, and the $1.5 million bulk of funding for the $1,711,500 purchase was provided by the NRDP. FWP Habitat Montana and the RMEF each put in $100,000, and $75,000 came from the Montana Fish & Wildlife Conservation Trust.

New Gallatin Valley Land Trust Conservation Easement Protects Prime Soils

Gallatin Valley Land Trust and Lloyd Harris have teamed up to conserve 229 acres of prime soils, important wildlife habitat and valuable open lands. GVLT reports that Lloyd has owned and farmed his property since the 1970s and his vision has always been to see his land protected. The prime agricultural soil, wildlife habitat, and incredible scenery that make up the 229-acre Madison Plateau parcel are now protected forever. GVLT is extremely grateful for the opportunity to help Lloyd turn his vision into a reality. The Harris Farm represents GVLT’s 115th conservation easement for a grand total of 49,551 acres conserved

Kaniksu Land Trust Connecting Kids to Nature

     Kaniksu Land Trust is in the news again, with a feature story in the Bonner County Daily Bee about KLT’s program to deploy Pine Street Woods as an outdoor classroom.

     KLT is partnering with Washington Elementary School in a new program that “allows them (children) to learn, socialize and give their parents more time for work.”

     “When kids come off the bus and you can see … they’re just excited,” Natassia Hamer, principal at Washington Elementary said. “I’ll be like, ‘hey, how was it?’ and they’re like, ‘It was so awesome.’ And I feel like Dave (Kretzschmar, KLT educational director) does a really good job of letting them explore, and then kind of bringing them in, and then letting them explore again.”

RMEF Helps Expand Garrity Mountain Wildlife Management Area

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently completed a wildlife conservation and pro-access project that expands the Garrity Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA) just west of Anaconda to 10,389 acres.

“This land is especially important because it provides spring calving and winter elk range as well as habitat for whitetail and mule deer, moose and bighorn sheep,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “It also features nearly one mile of riparian habitat along Warm Springs Creek which contains many fish species including westslope cutthroat and bull trout, both of which are Montana species of concern.”

Ironically, the project brings RMEF full circle in the immediate area. In 2000, RMEF brokered a transaction that eventually conveyed 32,000 acres of private land to state and federal ownership which includes today’s Garrity Mountain WMA. At the time, it was the largest land project in RMEF history.

RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment, FWP, Montana Natural Resource Damage Program and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Trust contributed vital funding to complete this project.

MALT Members Shine in Saving Land Magazine

     Two MALT members – The Montana Land Reliance and Kaniksu Land Trust – briefly occupy center stage in two different articles in the current edition of the Land Trust Alliance’s Saving Land Magazine.

     The MLR connection is within the article (starting on page 24) about the enhanced federal tax incentive that MLR led the effort to pass in 2015. The article highlights the value of the tax incentive and includes several case examples of how the tax incentives have been productive in conservation land, and one example is Rick Berg and the Berg Ranch in central Montana. Berg is also a longtime MLR board member.

     From the article: “It’s been a big help. Once in a while in the cattle business we’ll have a great year, and it’s been very beneficial to use the charitable tax deduction to save the money that would have been paid as income tax and use it in the bad years,” said Berg. It will help his daughter Kari, too, who moved back to the ranch with her husband and two children in 2012 and took over most of the management. “So they’re the fifth generation, and I’ve got grandkids just down the road who may become the sixth generation and will keep this thing going. It’s been a pretty amazing family legacy.”

     Kaniksu Land Trust contributes to an article (starting on page 14) titled “For the Long Haul: Protecting Nature’s Stage in the Pacific Northwest.”

     The article highlights the Pacific Northwest Resilient  Landscapes established by the Land Trust Alliance and others, and how KLT has participated in that initiative.

     From the article: KLT a small accredited land trust with a large service area in Idaho and Montana that stretches from Rocky Mountain summits to fertile river valleys, the Conservancy’s data will enable more strategic and thoughtful conservation and help “to elevate the organization’s work to the next level,” notes Kaniksu’s conservation director, Regan Plumb.

     With Initiative support, Kaniksu is working with a spatial ecologist at the Heart of the Rockies Initiative (HOTR), a regional conservation collaborative, to develop a strategic conservation plan that will pinpoint areas with notable climate resilience (alongside parameters set by the organization’s board of directors). Given that Kaniksu lacks in-house capacity for GIS map development, Plumb is grateful that the Initiative “brought us this opportunity” to collaborate with HOTR, who she notes has been “a wonderful partner to us.”