Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Projects Advance

     The Dec. 7 MALT newsletter reported that the Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team agreed to fully fund three proposed sage grouse conservation projects (conservation easements), and that four additional easements were approved at less than full funding, with an uncertainty of if those four projects remained viable.

     The good news is that on Dec. 14 MSGOT learned The Montana Land Reliance and the landowners it partnered with, and The Nature Conservancy in Montana and the landowners it partnered with, were able to make the projects work within the confines of a roughly 18 percent reduction in requested funding. All told, in 2020 MSGOT approved about $4.2 million to permanently conserve over 24,000 acres of important sage grouse habitat, thanks to MLR, TNC and landowners supportive of conservation.

MLR’s Future Montana Committee Shares Conservation Perspectives

     What does conservation mean to you?

     Several members of The Montana Land Reliance’s Future Montana Committee answer that question in a new video posted on social media and on the MLR website. The video features lush images of conservation benefits such as wildlife habitat, clean water and agricultural production, and thoughtful responses from folks like Gusty Clarke, Cole Mannix, Errol Rice (shown here), Ben Christensen, Jess Peterson, Brian McCurdy, Nick Bucklin, Freddy Avis and Jessie Wiese. 

Fish and Wildlife Commission Approves Lost Trail Conservation Easement

      The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved two – and endorsed two – high-impact conservation projects at its Dec. 10 meeting, including the 7,256-acre Lost Trail Conservation Easement. 

     The Trust for Public Land has been a project leader on the Lost Trail effort, which involves using funding from the USFS Forest Legacy Program, Habitat Montana Program and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust to purchase a conservation easement from Southern Pine Plantations (former Weyerhaeuser forest lands) that will be held by Montana FWP. The Kalispell Daily Inter Lake reported significant support for the project, which allows continued public access, active forest management and protection of wildlife habitat while precluding subdivisions on the property.

     Jim Vashro of Flathead Wildlife was among the supporters of the project. “It will more than double the effectiveness of the Lost Trail Refuge,” he said. “We hope this easement will begin continued cooperation to establish future easements in the area.”

     Other projects approved by the commission include the Everson Bench Conservation Easement. Two projects endorsed by the commission include the Currant Creek Conservation Easement and the Big Snowy Mountains Wildlife Management Area Land Project.

     For more information about the projects visit the FWP website. 

Innovation at Pine Street Woods

Kaniksu Land Trust’s new director of communications, Marcy Timblin, writes in the Bonner County Daily Bee that 2020 was a year of land management and organizational innovation for KLT at Pine Street Woods and elsewhere. At Pine Street Woods, a KLT-owned property managed for recreation, education and conservation, KLT and partners worked to reduce noxious weeds with the help of Avista, goats, sheep, llamas and yaks to trim the flower heads of blooming hawkweed and knapweed.  

A young shepherd provides assistance with livestock rotation in the PSW meadow. (Photo courtesy FIONA HICKS PHOTOGRAPHY)

Bitter Root Land Trust Gives Thanks for Community Support

     Bitter Root Land Trust found a personal, and a safe, way to express gratitude to community supporters. The photo below shows Knox and Ike Pruitt as Bitter Root Land Trust volunteers who delivered “Thank You grams” to the land trust’s donors on Dec. 6.

     “We wanted to figure out a way to personally connect with our supporters this year while at the same time keeping everyone safe,” said Lauren Rennaker, the trust’s development director. “While we had to pivot away from the normal annual events we hold, we knew we wanted to have some face time with our supporters to be able to show how much they mean to all of us.”

Flathead Land Trust Salutes Past Leaders

     The Flathead Land Trust’s Virtual Holiday Party & Conservation Leadership Award event was released on Dec. 10, and in addition to highlighting two of FLT’s major ongoing projects – Somers Beach and Bad Rock Canyon – FLT also presented Flathead Land Trust Conservation Leadership Awards to former FLT executive directors Marilyn Wood (left) and Susan How. An 18-minute video (filmed at Somers Beach) documents the conservation and recreation importance of the two projects, and also salutes the incredible and lasting contributions from Marilyn and Susan. Congratulations to Susan and Marilyn! 

Three New Conservation Easements in Gallatin County Protect Ag Lands, Open Space and Wildlife Habitat

Three new conservation easements will protect 1,381 acres of important agricultural land and vital open space in a place where open land protection is essential…Gallatin County. Great work by the Gallatin County Commission and open land program, NRCS, The Montana Land Reliance and Gallatin Valley Land Trust. Special thanks to the Bos, Hill and Flikkema families who make projects like this possible.

Landowners, Wildlife, and Connectivity

     The Private Land / Public Wildlife Council focused on wildlife migration during a Dec. 2 meeting, and the conversation touched on the many challenges – wildlife, policy, agricultural, recreational, land management and safety – that accompany solutions to wildlife movement and connectivity. The PL/PW discussion included comments from ranchers like Bart Morris (landowner partner with Five Valleys Land Trust on a conservation easement), Paul McKenzie of FH Stoltz Land & Lumber (timber company that works with TPL on conservation projects) and from Cole Mannix, whose family in the Blackfoot has worked with state and federal agencies on land management solutions.

     “Personally, the big story and the big take home is that the working lands (and) the folks who own and manage lands the grizzly bears are going to be on, bear a higher proportion of burden on this question,” Mannix said. “So it’s very much related to what we’re asking PL/PW to look at…how can we better support working lands that are so critical to the wildlife in this state?