Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Conserving Superb Wildlife Habitat and Family Ranching

Bryant Jones always dreamed of owning a ranch. And he owns a spectacular one. His Willow Basin Ranch southwest of Dillon is exceptional for its high-quality wildlife habitat and its vast views of nothing but open country.

“Our nearest neighbors are fifteen miles away,” says Jones. “I love the solitude and rugged untouched spirit the area has. It’s a unique and undeveloped corner of the world. I want to keep it that way.”

Those are also qualities that convinced The Nature Conservancy in Montana to place a NRCS Agricultural Conservation Easement Program Agricultural Land Easement on about 4,000 acres of the Willow Basin Ranch.

The Willow Basin easement is one of two recently completed in the High Divide by The Nature Conservancy in Montana (TNC). Together they secure nearly 7,000 acres of superb wildlife habitat as well as the future of these family ranches. These latest two easements are part of nearly 40,000 acres that TNC has secured since the winter of 2018.

“The financial return (from the easement) was very attractive for someone just starting out in ranching with a young family,” says Jones. “It allows me the opportunity to continue ranching the land and preserves the wild untouched place that it is.”

Prickly Pear Land Trust Seeking County Funding for Potter Ranch Conservation Easement Project

Prickly Pear Land Trust is seeking Lewis & Clark County Open Lands Program funding for PPLT’s “largest and most visible conservation easement project yet.”

PPLT’s 3,100-acre Potter Ranch project has received unanimous support from the county open land advisory committee. The proposal is expected to go before the county commission within the next two weeks for preliminary approval of the project proposal, which is located in the Spokane Hills area east of Helena. The Spokane Hills dominate the views east from Helena and East Helena, and the Potter property is one of only two remaining intact private ranches in the Spokane Hills area.

PPLT worked with Kevin League on a video that showcases the property.

Bitter Root Land Trust: The Outdoors is Healthy

Bitter Root Land Trust and MSU/Ravalli County Extension are partnering to produce “Open Lands: A Healthy Place to Be” webinar on Tuesday, June 23, from 12:00 to 12:30 PM.

The webinar will showcase the abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation in the area’s community park lands (some of those park land projects are led by BRLT). Featured presenters include Emy Royce and Gavin Ricklefs from BRLT, and Katelyn from MSU Extension. Katelyn will share information about 2020 Bike, Walk, Roll & WIN, an MSU Ravalli County Extension health incentive program.  

 

 

Senate Passes Great American Outdoors Act; On to the House!

The US Senate just took a huge step toward a generational conservation accomplishment: Full permanent Land and Water Conservation Fund  funding and passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. The House is next. If you enjoy the outdoors, you benefit from the LWCF.

Final passage of the GAOA means more jobs, more recreational access, better public land management, healthier forests, improved wildlife habitat, expanded outdoor recreation, improvements to national parks, more agricultural conservation, strengthened local economies, and more outdoor fun.

Here are MALT’s statements in support of Montana Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester, both of whom are LWCF champions.

“Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act is a major step toward a potential historic conservation achievement,” said Glenn Marx of the Montana Association of Land Trusts. “Senator Jon Tester was the first to identify the goal of full and permanent LWCF funding as a national policy priority. We in the Montana land trust community are grateful for his longstanding commitment to this goal and we also salute his never-ending efforts that helped make Senate passage a reality today.”

“Senator Daines today asked for ‘overwhelming affirmation’ of the Great American Outdoors Act in the Senate, and thanks to his leadership the Senate delivered exactly that with a 73-25 vote,” said Glenn Marx of the Montana Association of Land Trusts. “Senate passage of the GAOA is a significant accomplishment, but two more major steps are needed: House passage and the President’s signature. When those actions are taken, the Congress and America will have achieved a generational conservation accomplishment, and LWCF champions like Steve Daines will be a major reason why.”

The House is expected to take up the GAOA soon, perhaps as early as before July 4.

 

Flathead Land Trust Set to Ride June 20

      Flathead Land Trust is looking forward to its June 20 Bike and Bird Tour around Smith Lake.

     The Tour, led by FLT and Flathead Audubon, offers an opportunity to experience “the incredible birding and biking around this extensive wetland near Kila.”

     The Tour has two starting times: 9:00 AM (for sure) and 1:00 PM (if needed). Participants should bring their own bike, helmet, snacks and binoculars. For additional information contact Laura at FLT or call 406-752-8293.

     From FLT:  In an effort to provide as safe of a tour as possible and follow all CDC and Governor Bullock’s COVID-19 guidelines, we will organize smaller biking groups and require wide social distancing during the tour. Face masks are recommended. Also, we ask if you currently are or have recently been sick or have traveled outside the state in the last 14 days to please not attend.

Five Valleys Land Trust Grant Funds New Trails Project

     Five Valleys Land Trust has received a Montana Recreational Trails Grant that will enable Five Valleys to begin work on the House of Sky Trail in Missoula’s South Hills later this year.

    The Missoula Current article explains the complex land ownership and management activities on and near Mount Dean Stone. The House of Sky Trail will help to eventually link the north and south side of the Mount Dean Stone area, but in the short term will take trail users up the south side of the ridge.

     “It’ll help form the backbone along the top of the Dean Stone trail network,” Whitney Schwab, Five Valleys executive director, said in the article. “It’ll go from the west fork of Deer Creek and connect to the ridge on the south side near the radio towers. It’ll construct nearly five miles of trail along the south side of the Dean Stone ridge.”

     The Nature Conservancy in Montana is a major partner in the Mount Dean Stone project. The $75,000 grant from the Recreation Trails Program is managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The program itself is funded from motor fuel taxes.

Universal Trails & Outdoors for Everyone Workshop: One Month Away in Missoula July 8-10

     The Universal Trails & Outdoors for Everyone Workshop in Missoula on July 8-10 features Larry Knutson of Penn Trails, who’ll provide hands-on training for land trusts to take home and expand their organization’s trail-building abilities and opportunities.

     The workshop is led by Five Valleys Land Trust with assistance from the Land Trust Alliance and Montana Association of Land Trusts.

     The July 9-10 workshop will be held in person at the Five Valleys Confluence Property at Rock Creek. The July 8 panel discussion is scheduled now to be a virtual event. More details to follow. A few spots are still open for the workshop, and some funding is available from the Alliance to help offset travel expenses. People who have not yet signed up but are interested in participating are encouraged to contact Jenny at jenny@fvlt.org or at 406-549-0755 or at 406-381-3331. Please do so right away so Five Valleys and Knutson can finalize workshop details. Please also let Jenny know if your land trust is interested in working with Knutson and Penn Trails after the workshop.

     The workshop opens July 8 with an afternoon (virtual) panel (free and open to all) titled “Voices from the Community: Why Access, Equity, and Inclusion Matter.” July 9 features a Knutson led classroom session about planning, design and maintenance of universal trails. July 10 offers hands-on experiences in creating and managing your own universal trail.

     For more Information about Penn Trails please visit its website.

Land and Water Conservation Fund Helping TNC in Blackfoot River Corridor

     The Nature Conservancy in Montana has closed a 4,480-acre transaction with the BLM, part of a larger 13,000-acre project along Belmont and Burnt creeks in the Blackfoot River Corridor. The Missoula Current carried an announcement of the transaction last week, and reported the Land and Water Conservation Fund provided funding for the transaction, and the LWCF will help fund additional purchases by the BLM of property currently held by TNC.

     From the article:

     “This project has been a blueprint for achieving conservation at a meaningful scale and would not have been possible without collaborative partnerships, forged over many years, among private landowners, community organizations and state and federal agencies,” said Chris Bryant, Western Montana Land Protection Director for The Nature Conservancy.

     …The area is home to threatened and endangered species, including grizzly bears, lynx and bull trout, along with elk, deer and other species. 

    …About 8,000 acres was purchased in November with $5.6 million of LWCF money. Thursday’s chunk was made possible with another $3.5 million from LWCF.

     …Bryant said the BLM needs about $900,000 before the remaining parcels will be bought. “It probably will be LWCF money, but it will probably be from other pots,” Bryant said.

     The Nature Conservancy has promised a few nearby parcels to the U.S. Forest Service. The USFS has been promised $9 million in LWCF grants to buy those properties, but the two parties haven’t closed on them yet.        Bryant said it won’t be long before they’re public land too.

     All told, The Nature Conservancy sales to the BLM and USFS will create more than 25,000 acres of new public land. And there’s a possibility of more to come.