Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

12 Awesome Montana Land Trust Projects Highlighted in 2019

by Glenn Marx, Montana Association of Land Trusts Executive Director

In no order, here are 12 MALT member examples of projects advanced or finalized in 2019 that illustrate Montana land trust conservation and recreation accomplishment, impact, and value. 

12. Skalkaho Bend Park Bitter Root Land Trust teams up with city and county government on a project that significantly expands BRLT’s community profile.

11. Mount Dean Stone – Five Valleys Land Trust is hitting this one out of the park.

10. Veseth ProjectMontana TNC and partners provide example of Northern Great Plains creative conservation.

9. Crabb Ranch The Conservation Fund and USFWS partner with a family to generate impressive agriculture and wildlife conservation along the Rocky Mountain Front. Also: Sexton Conservation Easement along the Front, through work by Vital Ground with help from the NRCS.

8. Falls Creek Speaking of the Front…the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, landowner and project partners provide an international model of conservation and outdoor recreation access.

7. Raths, MLR, NRCS and MSGOT Team Up for Sage Grouse – 11,230 acres of core sage grouse habitat conserved, and Jeff and Bea Raths traveled to DC to talk about its importance.

6. Pine Street Woods – Not long ago Kaniksu Land Trust barely had enough funding and community support to maintain an office. Now they own Pine Street Woods, a recreation jewel, and are a major Sandpoint nonprofit.

5. Main Street to the Mountains – Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s gift to the people of the greater Gallatin area, termed “a trail system for generations.”

4. Peaks to Creeks – A project so impressive the US Army gave it a national award at the Pentagon. And Prickly Pear Land Trust is just getting started.

3. Stillwater Forest Conservation – The Trust for Public Land gets rave reviews for working with partners to retain access and forest management on 14,000 acres in NW Montana.

2. Story Mill Community Park – The Trust for Public Land and abundant partners create “Bozeman’s Central Park,” a monument to the conservation and recreation value land trusts bring to Montana communities.

1. Columbia Falls Fishing Pond – Flathead Land Trust and partners create a new kid-friendly outdoor recreation asset for a grateful community.

GVLT Finalizes Big Sky Conservation Easement

Gallatin Valley Land Trust has finalized a conservation easement in Big Sky with landowner Admiral William Fallon on 20.5 acres that conserves wetlands, helps protect water quality on the Middle Fork of the Gallatin River and maintains a Nordic ski trail.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported the 20.5 acre easement is in the same general area as other GVLT and Montana Land Reliance easements, and creates open space in a rapidly growing Big Sky area.

I’d like to do a little bit to preserve what we have,” Fallon said. “We can’t stop the clock, but I’d like to do what we can to preserve the land and be smart with development.”

Flathead Land Trust Recognizes Two Area Conservation Champions

Flathead Land Trust bestowed Conservation Leadership Awards to two area conservation champions – Gael Bissell (left) and Constanza von der Phalen (right) – at FLT’s annual holiday gathering and member appreciation party on Dec. 12.

Gael worked as a habitat biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for 31 years in the Flathead and helped lead mitigation and management programs. After retiring from FWP she worked for The Vital Ground Foundation on grizzly bear habitat conservation projects.

Constanza has been the Flathead Lakers Critical Lands Program Director for nearly 20 years and is coordinator of the Flathead River to Lake Initiative. She helped Flathead Land Trust raise needed funds for the Flathead River Conservation Project and has helped FLT on several other events as well.

“We can’t think of two more deserving people to receive the award this year and are very grateful for their unwavering leadership, service and commitment to conserving our spectacular land and water legacy through community-based conservation,” said Paul Travis, Flathead Land Trust executive director.

RMEF Video Salutes Falls Creek Access

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has released a new video titled “A Piece of History – Unlocking 26,000 Acres of Public Land,” that spotlights the Falls Creek access project near the Rocky Mountain Front. The video has a special tip of the cap to key project partners including the Lewis and Clark County Commission, Bryan Golie of Montana FWP, landowner Daniel Barrett and other major partners and supporters.

The video partly tracks hunter Sam Soholt on the property during an October elk hunt. Soholt shares the importance of the access opportunities made possible by the Falls Creek project, and the importance of the partnership that produced completion of the project on a rapid timeline.

Congress Approves $495 Million for LWCF in 2020

Congress approved $495 million for FY20 Land and Water Conservation Funding as part of the final budget package agreement today. The goal of MALT and its members is permanent full dedicated funding for the LWCF, and while that was not accomplished, the LWCF was funded at its highest level since FY03. The $495 million awarded nationally looks to include $17.9 million for Montana conservation and recreational access projects in places like the Blackfoot, Lolo and Rocky Mountain Front.

Weyerhaeuser Plans to Sell All 630,000 Acres of Montana Forest Land

Weyerhaeuser announced on Dec. 17 plans to sell all 630,000 acres of forest lands it owns in Montana, with the purchase to be complete by mid-2020 to (at this time) an unnamed buyer. Montana land trusts, including The Nature Conservancy in Montana and The Trust for Public Land, have a long history of working with Plum Creek (former owner of the forest land) and Weyerhaeuser on forest management / conservation transactions, but neither conservation organization appears to be involved in the transaction.

Weyerhaeuser’s three manufacturing facilities in the Flathead Valley are not affected by the announcement, according to the release, though officials would not disclose further details about the buyer or what the sale means for the future of public access on the parcels

Five Valleys Land Trust: Graveley Cattle Ranch

Five Valleys Land Trust, with help from a bunch of partners, in 2019 completed its largest conservation easement ever on the 5,100-acre Graveley Ranch.

The Graveley Ranch is a place of windswept beauty. Located outside of Garrison, and visible from Interstate 90, the ranch rolls from the East Garnet Mountains into juniper-sagebrush steppes and high montane grasslands, down into conifers stands and tracks of riparian habitat along Brock Creek, Bear Gulch, Warm Springs Creek and the Clark Fork River. Tucked away into these hills, a spring bubbles into a large waterfall feature—a rarity among the coolies and sage of this region.