More Blackfoot land conserved for fish, wildlife and people
Wed, Jul 28 2010 at 3:21 PM
By The Nature Conservancy
The land, in the North Chamberlain area, was purchased from the Plum Creek timber company by The Nature Conservancy in Montana as part of the Blackfoot Community Project. It shelters portions of Chamberlain, Bear and Pearson Creeks that are important waters for Westslope cutthroat trout, which feed into the Blackfoot River. It also provides important habitat for wildlife such as Canada lynx, bear and a number of game species.
Under the agreement, 14,581 acres will be transferred to the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) as state trust lands. All but 1,171 acres of it will be under a conservation easement owned by the state Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP). The easement was made possible, in part, with funds provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for protection of native fish populations and habitat. The Conservancy donated the remaining portion of the easement value.
“This land surrounds extremely important spawning areas for native Westslope cutthroat trout. That makes it pretty valuable for sport-fishing on the main stem of the Blackfoot,” says FWP Region 2 Fisheries Manager Pat Saffel. “It’s also one of our most popular block management areas for deer and elk hunters.”
In fact, its popularity predates that official designation.
“This was the first walk- in hunting area in western Montana, going back to 1975. It’s a place where folks have always had access, even with a whole jumble of owners from ranchers, to corporate timber and public. This deal really sets up that access for good.”
This week’s transaction will mean that 70,000 acres purchased by The Nature Conservancy from Plum Creek has now been permanently protected in the Blackfoot Valley in collaboration with its many public and private partners, and the coordination of the Blackfoot Challenge.
“This agreement will stand the test of time because it was forged in partnership with the community. Giving everyone a seat at the table is what community conservation is all about and the people of the Blackfoot Valley have truly set the standard for us all,” says Kat Imhoff, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Montana.
Ownership of the remaining 3,440 acres will be retained by the Conservancy under a conservation easement, held by the Five Valleys Land Trust, which protects it from development and ensures continued public access.
“Local support has been critical to achieving this great success, in particular, the people of Missoula County who recognized the value of preserving working lands and made a solid financial commitment to keeping these lands productive and open to the public," says Pelah Hoyt Conservation Project Manager for Five Valleys Land Trust.
Five Valleys is using funds from the USFWS, the Missoula County Open Space Bond and the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust to acquire this easement. The Conservancy is donating value here as well to make the transaction work. The land will eventually be conveyed to the neighboring Potter family ranch with the easement and access protections in place.