Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Forest Legacy Webinar Shows Montana Strength

     MALT participated in a recent Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition webinar that provided expansive information about the Forest Legacy Program, and while the webinar offered examples of successful Forest Legacy projects from around the country Montana was a consistent presence within the presentations. 

     The webinar featured presentations from The Trust for Public Land, The Conservation Fund, the Forest Legacy Program, and US Forest Service and others, and was cosponsored by The Nature Conservancy.

     The webinar explained the project application process and project review and approval/funding process, and detailed how full funding of the LWCF will assist in funding additional projects.

     At least eight different presenter slides showcased Montana’s success in utilizing the Forest Legacy Program. One slide featured the Bad Rock Canyon Project, a cooperative proposal involving Montana FWP and Flathead Land Trust, and how the benefits of the project are a good fit for the Forest Legacy Program.

     Other slides showed a map of the US and the concentration of Forest Legacy projects in northwest Montana. One slide showed a sample list of Forest Legacy projects approved by the USFS and submitted to Congress, with two of the top seven projects proposed within Montana. Another slide showed a map of the national forest system in Idaho and Montana with the impressive scope of Forest Legacy Projects highlighted. Other slides focused on the Seeley Lake area of Montana, and others showed national information with Montana front and center as a Forest Legacy Program partner.     

Prickly Pear Debuts New Video at 25th Anniversary Event

Prickly Pear Land Trust premiered a 25th anniversary video on Sept. 16 as part of its Crescent Moon Auction and anniversary celeration. The roughly ten-minute video takes a visual tour of PPLT’s major projects…South Hills trails system, local conservation easements, Tenmile Creek Park, Sevenmile Creek Restoration Project, East Helena Greenway Project and more.

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.