This is a pretty big deal: The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is working to create new access to 26,000 acres of public land near the Rocky Mountain Front.
Great to see Senator Steve Daines and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation talking positively about the LWCF during the upcoming congressional lame duck session. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has unfortunately expired. The program needs to be reauthorized permanently with full and permanent dedicated funding.
A Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation project helped expand the Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley and provides access and wildlife connectivity in multiple watersheds. Funding sources for the project included the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust. Mike Mueller, Senior Land Program Manager for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, one of the central organizations in cinching the deal, said the theme of the project was, “Never give up!..A hundred and twenty acres may not seem like much. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is used to doing deals for 20,000 to 30,000 acres, but sometimes the smallest ones are the most important.”
A new national video that includes Montanans highlights the importance of the USDA Agricultural Land Easement Program to open land conservation and food production. The video is titled “Keeping Working Lands in Working Hands” and includes Gallatin Valley Land Trust and Bitter Root Land Trust in addition to Gallatin Valley and Bitterroot Valley landowners.
The Nature Conservancy in Montana, the NRCS, the Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program and – most importantly – the Hansen Family partnered to complete a 13,535-acre conservation easement in Beaverhead County that maintains ranch operations and conserves wildlife habitat. The Montana Standard and other newspapers showcased the project last week along with a Hansen family photo that includes TNC High Divide Headwaters Coordinator Jim Berkey (standing second from the right). “I’m fourth generation and I want my daughter to run the ranch some day and her kids and even if something happens and we can no longer do it, I want this to be a working ranch and stay the way it is,“ Eric Hansen, one of the ranch owners, said in the article. The Hansen Ranch is the largest private ownership in the Medicine Lodge Valley, south of Dillon, and plays host to wildlife, including the greater sage grouse, pronghorns, wolves, wolverines, elk, moose and mule deer. The project was funded in part by the NRCS ALE Program and the Montana Sage-Grouse Habitat Conservation Program.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has received the Public Lands Foundation’s (PLF) 2018 Landscape Stewardship Award for RMEF’s leadership in conserving wildlife habitat and improving access on public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). “The RMEF has been a long-time leader in working with the BLM, state and federal agencies, private landowners and other partners to conserve wildlife and enhance access to public lands for hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy,“ said Ed Shepard, PLF president. “RMEF’s unique niche as a grassroots, member-driven organization has made a measurable impact as a passionate and effective advocate, working from the ground up to champion access and habitat improvement projects across the country.”
The Montana land trust community extends congratulations to Michael Whitfield, a longtime conservation champion and former executive director of the Heart of the Rockies Initiative for receiving the distinguished Kingsbury Browne Conservation Leadership Award on Oct. 11 at Rally. From the Land Trust Alliance blog: “At a time when many land trusts in the West were really asking the question, ‘Should we be working on community-based conservation or should we be focused on landscape-level conservation,’ Michael was one of the first people answering that question with, ‘Both. We should be doing both things,'” said Wendy Ninteman, the Land Trust Alliance’s Western director. “That passion and that commitment and that integrity are really contagious.” Whitfield will serve in the Kingsbury Browne Fellowship at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy for 2018-2019. For the fellowship, Whitfield will engage in research, writing and mentoring with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a think tank devoted to land policy that’s based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Now retired, Whitfield long served as executive director at Teton Regional Land Trust in Idaho before coordinating the Heart of the Rockies Initiative to expedite private land conservation in the West. “The collaborative planning effort, capacity building and capital fundraising for the Heart of the Rockies Initiative brought together land trusts in three states and two Canadian provinces in the Northern Rockies,” said Andrew Bowman, the Land Trust Alliance’s president. “Congratulations, Michael, and thank you for everything you’ve done for our community.”
Amber Sherrill, Five Valleys Land Trust executive director, defined the reasons to support a proposed open land bond measure and stewardship levy during a debate last week in Missoula. “We live in an area that’s growing quickly,“ said Sherrill, in a Missoula Current article. “Outdoor recreation and scenic open space have become a driver for both tourism and businesses locating from more urban centers. It’s particularly important right now that we plan for the future and protect and manage this piece of our growing economy.“ Sherrill debated Missoula City Council member Jesse Ramos, who supported open land but opposed additional property tax hikes. The $15 million bond and $500,000 annual levy are on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Congratulations to The Montana Land Reliance for being honored with a 2018 National Land Trust President’s Award this morning at the National Land Trust Conservation Conference in Pittsburgh. MLR is the nation’s largest accredited land trust, a Montana and national private land conservation leader, and a National Land Trust President’s Award is among America’s highest conservation honors. MLR was also instrumental in creating the Montana Association of Land Trusts.
The Heart of the Rockies Initiative membership gathered in Missoula at the UM campus on Sept. 27-28 to advance HOTR strategies, and to learn more about Blackfoot Valley conservation during a stop at the Iverson Ranch in Potomac. The HOTR staff and membership advanced a three-pronged strategy of serving its membership through access to science data and information, a capitol campaign for conservation, and strategic communications designed to help each member tell its individual story as part of a collective landscape conservation message. During the visit to the Iverson Ranch, Denny Iverson detailed some of the conservation projects that have made the Blackfoot such a state and national conservation model.