Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Montana Land Reliance Adds to Gallatin County Land Conservation

The Montana Land Reliance has received funding and county commission approval to finalize a 230-acre conservation easement near Manhattan that is in a 15,000-acre conservation easement neighborhood.

From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle article:

The county commissioners agreed to put $409,377 from the Open Lands Program toward the Casey Farm project conservation easement. The project has been in the works since 2020, when the Open Lands Board initially approved the funding.

The easement will protect the land from subdivision, and ensure that agricultural activity — like growing wheat, alfalfa and providing grazing pasture for cattle — will continue uninterrupted by future development.

An abundance of wildlife inhabits the property, according to documents submitted to the Gallatin County Commission.

White tail, mule deer, moose and elk traverse the property. Several species of bird can be found there, including 10 bird species of concern — like bald and golden eagles. The land is also designated as a bat roosting area, and supports around five bat species of concern



Sage Grouse Oversight Team Announces New Grant Cycle

     The Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team (MSGOT), managers of Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program, met on Feb. 11 and unanimously approved a new grant cycle for Sage Grouse Program Stewardship Grants. MALT members The Montana Land Reliance and The Nature Conservancy in Montana are major sage grouse conservation partners with MSGOT and work with landowners on perpetual conservation easements to conserve sage grouse habitat  and generate mitigation credits. The amount of funding available in the new grant cycle will be in the $5.3 million range.

     Since the program’s first sage grouse conservation grant awards in 2016, MSGOT has funded 15 habitat conservation projects that have conserved more than 90,000 of sage grouse habitat. The $9.6 million in state sage grouse funds have been leveraged by $25 million in matching funds from other programs, including the Farm Bill’s Agricultural Land Easement program.

     MSGOT also approved term conservation leases within the potential grant awards, and indicated conservation easements that have a restoration or enhancement component are particularly attractive to the program.

    Brad Hansen, MLR’s eastern manager, provided comments at the meeting. 



Kaniksu Land Trust Works With Kalispel Tribe on Land Restoration Project

This is a story of conservation on 75 acres of land named the Moose Mountain parcel that shifted from a possible conservation easement held by Kaniksu Land Trust to a heritage site owned by the Kalispel Tribe. 

The Sandpoint Reader article starts with this: When William Haberman, managing member of Valiant Idaho, LLC, which owns The Idaho Club, approached Kaniksu Land Trust about placing a parcel of the company’s land in a conservation agreement in the fall of 2021, the goal was to protect the property as open space and natural habitat from encroaching development.

The rest of the story is well told in the Sandpoint Reader.

Pat Bousliman Named New MALT Executive Director

Pat Bousliman–a Montana native with decades of national policy and advocacy experience–is the new executive director of the Montana Association of Land Trusts. The announcement was made during a MALT membership Zoom meeting the morning of Feb. 15

Current executive director Glenn Marx is retiring, and both Glenn and Pat will work together through a transition period until May 23, when Pat assumes full-time MALT duties.



MALT Membership Meets 9:00 AM Virtually on Feb. 15 to Meet New Executive Director

     The Montana Association of Land Trusts membership will meet via Zoom at 9:00 AM on Tuesday, Feb. 15, to formally meet the incoming MALT executive director. 

     Current MALT executive director Glenn Marx is transitioning into retirement starting in March, and the new executive director will transition into the position through late May, when the individual will begin full-time MALT duties. 

     An announcement on the new MALT ED will be distributed immediately after the Feb. 15 Zoom meeting. 

     Contact Glenn with questions. 

     The only other item on the MALT Feb. 15 meeting agenda is approval of the MALT 2023 Farm Bill Policy Recommendations. A new draft of that proposed policy document was sent to MALT members on Friday, Feb.10. 

     During the MALT ED transition (March through late May) the MALT Monday Update newsletter will be temporarily suspended, and the new executive director and MALT board and membership will later determine how best to address internal MALT communications. 

Montana Great Outdoors: 113,951 Acres of Conservation and Outdoor Recreation

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has begun a public scoping review of the Montana Great Outdoors Conservation Project, a 113,951-acre proposal that would conserve lands surrounding the Thompson Chain of Lakes and strengthen and extend existing protection of the 142,000-acre Thompson-Fisher Conservation Easement and the 100,000-acre Lost Trail Conservation Area.

The Flathead Beacon reports FWP is accepting public comments through March 4. The Montana Great Outdoors Project received unanimous preliminary approval from the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission to perform due diligence on the proposal, and comments received from this public review will help FWP determine public interest and support, identify potential issues, and provide insight for refining the proposal or for developing and analyzing one or more alternatives.

The Montana Great Outdoors proposal is a collaboration among FWP, The Trust for Public Land,SPP Montana, and Green Diamond Resource Company.

From the article: 

If approved, FWP would hold the conservation easement while SPP and Green Diamond would maintain ownership of the land. The easement would preclude development on those lands, protect important wildlife habitat and landscape connectivity, and provide public access and associated recreational opportunities. The U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, the Habitat Montana program, and grant funding raised by TPL would be likely funding sources if this proposal were to proceed.

The project is the most recent strongly supported forest conservation project in northwest Montana that retains permanent public access, maintains forest health and sustainable forest management, provides open land and wildlife habitat conservation, and restricts development of the property.

From the article: 

As part of the Forest Legacy funding application process, FWP has received letters of support for the proposal from a diverse mix of interests, including: the Lincoln, Flathead, and Sanders county commissions; Montana U.S. Sens. Steve Daines (R) and Jon Tester (D); the Kootenai National Forest; the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes; and local timber companies.

Announcing the agency’s support for the easements early on in the negotiations, FWP Director Hank Worsech said “these projects reflect the good collaboration and stewardship that help define Montana.” Both of Montana’s U.S. senators also offered a bipartisan endorsement of the proposed deal, which has enjoyed support from sportsmen groups and conservation organizations alike.

The project would conserve key winter range and a movement corridor for elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and moose. It would provide critical habitat for grizzly bear and Canada lynx, federally threatened species found on the property, and protect streams for the westslope cutthroat trout and Columbia River redband trout, both Montana species of concern.

Photo: An aerial view of the Thompson Chain of Lakes and its surrounding forestland.  Courtesy of Chris Boyer of Kestrel Aerial

Land Trust Cooperation Producing Forest Conservation and Outdoor Recreation in Bigfork

Three MALT members—Flathead Land Trust, The Montana Land Reliance, and The Trust for Public Land—are collaborating on a 236-acre project near Bigfork that would provide new outdoor recreation opportunities and forest conservation. The trail portion of the project is currently in design phase, local creation of a management plan is ongoing, and fundraising is underway. The Montana Access Project is also a partner. TPL currently owns the property, with plans for Flathead Land Trust to ultimately own the land, protected by a conservation easement held by MLR. The goal is to complete the trail system in early 2023 and open the area to the public in summer of 2023. The project is a great example of land trust cooperation and leadership on a community project that provides signifiant conservation and outdoor recreation benefits.

Photo: The 236-acre Harrell Forest property near Bigfork will soon be owned by Flathead Land Trust and will offer over 4 miles of trails to the public. Photo courtesy of The Trust for Public Land.

Registration Open for In-Person Prickly Pear Land Trust Trail Run


The Don’t Fence Me In race began 22 years ago and what started off as a small gathering aimed at growing support and excitement for local open space is now a major recreation event for people of all ages.

This iconic event has something for everyone; whether pushing through the 30K dash, scrambling through hills and trees with the 5K or 12K races, or taking time to sniff the wild roses in the non-competitive 5K Dog Walk, all are invited to celebrate our local wild lands and our connection to them. Stick around afterwards for a party in the park with food, live music, and family-friendly fun.

Funds from this race support ongoing projects like the Mount Ascension and Mount Helena land acquisitions, South Hills trail maintenance, and Tenmile Creek Park. It’s all about coming together, celebrating our unifying love of fresh air, and just letting off some steam and running wild.

Register now for the 30K, 12K, 5K races or the 5k dog walk. Kids under 13 run for free!

Gallatin Valley Land Trust Rallies to Protect Peets Hill

      The Bozeman Daily Chronicle stated it clearly and succinctlyIt’s official: 12 acres of Bozeman’s iconic Peets Hill will be preserved as a city park.

      The Peets Hill project demonstrated the remarkable ability of Gallatin Valley Land Trust to act quickly and decisively to mobilize local support and funding to protect one of Bozeman’s most treasured recreational assets. GVLT and its private and public partners were able to secure $1.23 million to finalize the purchase.

     From the Chronicle article: 

     The 12 acres were listed for sale over the summer. The land trust jumped at the chance to preserve the land and submitted an offer to buy it for $1.23 million, which eventually was chosen after a previous offer fell through.

     Then, GVLT started a public fundraising campaign, billing it as a chance to “protect Peets’ final piece.”

     In a matter of weeks, hundreds of people donated to raise $800,000 to help with the sale. The land trust then turned to the city to ask for $485,000 to cover the rest of the costs and an additional $315,000 to be paid over the next two years to cover the cost of trail and land work planned for the parcel.

     “I think the commission believes it’s a really good investment of public dollars and I think that’s because it’s used by so many people and so many visitors,” Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus said. “It’s such a great project and it’s such a good resource, and I just believe the timing was really good … as we’re growing it’s more difficult to acquire land so this was a very good opportunity for the community.”

     Andrus also praised GVLT for getting the deal done. Chet Work, the organization’s executive director, said it was an “honor” to facilitate the deal.

     From a GVLT Jan. 20 social media post: We are thrilled to report that as of yesterday afternoon, Peets’ Final Piece is officially protected from the threat of development forever. 

     Thanks to an outpouring of support from nearly 700 donors, GVLT and City of Bozeman purchased the 12 acre parcel at the south end of Peets Hill. We never could have protected this important piece of Bozeman’s most cherished park without your support.

Flathead Land Trust Taps ALE Program for New Project

     Flathead Land Trust, with help from the NRCS ALE (Farm Bill) Program, Heart of the Rockies and the Liz Claiborne & Art Ortenberg Foundation, is working on a conservation easement on a key 655-acre parcel that borders the Stillwater River and sits adjacent to the Kuhns Wildlife Management Area in the Flathead Valley.

    FLT reports the “project will protect important forested riparian and wetland habitat used by federally listed grizzly bears and a plethora of other wildlife including black bears, coyote, fox, mountain lion, elk, deer, otter, and many bird species. The project will also protect the water quality and healthy river function of the Stillwater River. In addition, the project will conserve rich farmland containing soils including ‘Soils of Statewide Importance’ or ‘Prime Farmland’ as determined by the Natural Resource Conservation Service on 85% of the property.”