Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Montana Land Reliance Offers Comments During Sage Grouse Meeting

     Kendall Van Dyk of The Montana Land Reliance (seen here) and Glenn Marx of Montana Association of Land Trusts were two of the presenters at a special Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team (MSGOT) listening session on Oct. 14. The combination in-person and virtual meeting offered the public and sage grouse program stakeholders an opportunity to share thoughts with and recommendations to MSGOT as the program moves ahead under the Gianforte Administration. MSGOT members include department directors, legislators and the Montana Rangeland Resources Committee (within the DNRC). 

      Kendall focused his comments on specific items selected at the start of the listening session by MSGOT members. Those topics were: program customer service, program transparency, program efficiency and effectiveness, the program’s success in conserving sage grouse habitat, any potential weakness in the program’s ability to achieve its legislative purpose, the potential use of term leases to generate mitigation credits, and the potential for a unified front in the case Montana would need to seek policy or legal action to retain state authority. Roughly 15 people made presentations, many of them representing rural electric and telephone cooperatives.

     MSGOT leadership indicated an interest in hearing more perspectives from sage grouse program participants in upcoming months. MLR, The Nature Conservancy in Montana and MALT have been consistently and actively involved in sage grouse conservation since before MSGOT’s creation.

Montana TNC’s Amy Croover Sheds Light on Marsh Transfer On Indian Country Today

      The Nature Conservancy in Montana’s State Director, Amy Croover, was recently featured in an  Indian Country Today News report on the transfer of the Safe Harbor Marsh to the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes.

     The edition of Indian Country Today News, on KCWC (PBS), aired in late September and covers several topics. Here is how the host of the show leads into TNC and Amy Croover: “…and in Montana, it’s more than just words (as) Amy Croover from the Nature Conservancy explains. She’s enrolled in the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, and tells us of an important land transfer back to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.” 

      “It’s an incredible, inspiring thing that I am so grateful that I was able to be a part of,” said Croover. “The story is very long. The initial purchase of the land that’s located just off of the Flathead Lake, on the Flathead Indian Reservation in northwest Montana. It was purchased in 1989, and at the time The Nature Conservancy in Montana was very focused on biodiversity. And since then we’ve shifted more towards whole ecosystems. So we have this, you know, 132 acres of land, I think from the beginning there was always a hope that someday we could transfer it back to the tribes, the rightful stewards of this land.”

      The Indian Country Today show host and Amy discuss a range of additional topics as well.

     From the interview: 

     “…it helps us better understand what we should be restoring those lands to,” said Croover, “and a lot of that was coming from indigenous knowledge. But I would say it’s most important that we allow it to come from them, and so these are deep partnerships that we have built with both the Blackfeet Nation and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes here in Montana, to learn from them, to partner with them and to better understand how we can help the allies in stewarding their lands.”

MALT Among Forest Funding Supporters

     The Montana Association of Land Trusts was among a list of state, regional and national conservation organizations—including other MALT members—that signed on to a letter to US House and Senate leadership advocating the reconciliation bill retain major funding for forest conservation programs.

     MALT members who also signed the letter included Prickly Pear Land Trust, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land.

     The letter, sent earlier in October, highlights the value and success of the Forest Legacy Program, a program that has been instrumental in funding large forest conservation projects in northwest Montana. The reconciliation package—whose future in Congress is unclear—currently contains $40 billion in forest conservation funding, including $1.25 billion (over ten years) for the Forest Legacy Program. The bill also contains $100 million for the Community Forest and Open Space Program. 

     Final budget allocation numbers for the reconciliation bill are unsettled at this time, but increases in the Forest Legacy Program and Community Forest Program would be welcome forest conservation news for Montana. The Forest Legacy Program as been instrumental in conserving nearly 270,000 acres of western Montana forestlands, with multiple projects in the Montana Forest Legacy pipeline. 


Volunteers Dig In to Help Five Valleys House of Sky Trail

    Over 50 volunteers joined Five Valleys Land Trust on National Public Lands Day to help build a portion of the House of Sky Trail, a new recreational trail in Missoula.

     The Missoulian featured the trail building effort in a featured story accompanied by a handful of stunning photos taken by Missoulian photographer Tom Bauer.

     The 4.5-mile Mount Dean Stone trail is scheduled to open next year and will connect to the High, Wide and Handsome Trail in the Mount Dean Stone Corridor. It will be open for hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers. 

     The trail work was hosted by Mountain Bike Missoula (MTB Missoula), community members along with co-hosts from Five Valleys Land Trust, Montana Trail Crew, and Montana Conservation Corps.

     Photo: Sherri Lee works on a new section of trail on Mount Dean Stone. Tom Bauer/Missoulian photo

Happy National Farmer’s Day!

Today, Oct. 12, is National Farmer’s Day, a time to recognize farm producers across Montana and the country. To all farmers, MALT says Thank You.

Five Valleys Land Trust photo


Forest Legacy Program, Reconciliation Package, Key to Forest Conservation

       Montana’s western forests face many threats, and among those threats is residential development on large tracts of privately held forestlands. An impressive Oct. 7 article in the Flathead Beacon—which includes perspectives from The Trust for Public Land, Stimson Lumber Company,  Green Diamond Resource Company and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks—documents the threats of development as well as the programs and cooperation needed to keep western Montana forestlands intact and producing wood products, maintaining public access and protecting wildlife habitat.

     The article also points out additional funding for forestland conservation is in the much-debated reconciliation bill now before Congress. 

     Three quotes from the article:

“There’s no program in the history of fish and wildlife conservation in Montana that comes close to the Forest Legacy Program in terms of the impact it’s had on maintaining a working landscape, maintaining public recreation access, and protecting critical fish and wildlife connectivity,”said Jim Williams, regional supervisor for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in northwest Montana. “And we have been fortunate to work with willing timber companies as well as extremely knowledgeable land trust organizations that are the foremost experts on these partnerships.”

     “There’s a saying that there are two income streams from forestry—income for today and value for tomorrow,” Neil Ewald, Green Diamond’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, said. “Well, we’re not desperate for income today. We don’t have any big notes to pay off. But we think we can maximize the value for the future.”

     “These companies are being partially paid and they are partially donating the development rights of their timberland so they can move forward and say, ‘We don’t want the distraction of these unsolicited offers from developers.’ That’s critical. It’s because of those decisions that we are able to keep these working forests on the landscape, keep development pressures at bay and continue to allow public access,” said Chris Deming, senior project manager at The Trust for Public Land.

Chief Creek

GVLT Helps Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Bozeman

Between Oct. 8-18 Mountain Time Arts is celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day with illuminated teepees in Bozeman near the Gallatin Valley Land Trust trail system at Peets Hill. Lighting of the Teepees will honor the contributions of American Indians to our community, economy, culture, & history. They will be installed on the ancestral lands and traditional use area of the Bitterroot Salish, Pend d’Oreille, Kootenai, Blackfeet, Northern Cheyenne, Crow, Chippewa Cree, Assiniboine, Gros Ventre, Dakota, and other Indigenous nations of this region. For more information visit the Mountain Time Arts website.

RMEF Awards Recognize Partners

      The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently presented a series of awards to the major project partners that made the Elkhorn Mountains public acquisition project possible. The project closed earlier in September during an event in the Elkhorns attended by project partners, the media, and area outdoor organizations.

     Seen here (left to right) are Mitch King, Executive Director of Montana’s Outdoor Legacy Foundation; Jeff Hagener, President of the MOLF Board of Directors; Mike Mueller, RMEF Senior Lands Program Manager; Joe Cohenour, Chairman of the RMEF Helena Elkhorn Chapter; Mike Welker, Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest District Ranger; and John Hagengruber, USFS State Government Liaison. The 1,418-acre project transferred three parcels of land that were among the largest remaining private inholdings within the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest into accessible public ownership.  RMEF Photo

Montana TNC Shows Challenges of Pronghorn Migration

The Nature Conservancy in Montana released a recent story-map, in partnership with the National Wildlife Federation, providing a comprehensive look at the challenging migration pronghorn face in north central Montana and southern Canada. “It’s not too late to secure these ancient pathways. With the cooperation of landowners, scientists, agencies and conservation organizations, a future for these beautiful animals can be assured,” says Nature Conservancy Range Ecologist Kelsey Molloy. The story-map is titled On the Move and does a remarkable job capturing the perilous journey of the pronghorn as they navigate roads, fences, traffic, and many more obstacles. 

Vital Ground Story-Map Focuses on Connectivity

      The Vital Ground Foundation’s One Landscape Initiative comes alive through a new story-map on the Foundation’s website that captures the vision, goals, and progress of the One Landscape campaign.

     The One Landscape Initiative calls for a conservation focus on 188,000 acres of private land that link the region’s wild strongholds.  

     Created by Vital Ground student intern Jasmin López, the impressive multimedia story-map feature includes video clips from Bob Landis Wildlife Films and Eric Ian’s short film “One Landscape”, as well as project maps and photos, statistics underlying Vital Ground’s science-driven conservation strategy, and a new interactive map showing how connecting One Landscape lands provides climate change resilience for a myriad wildlife species.