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The Nature Conservancy in Montana has hit a milestone – conservation of a million acres – one acre for every resident of the state!
While conservation easements in the Crown of the Continent and Big Hole Valley put us over the mark, this achievement is the result of more than twenty years of partnership and cooperation with private landowners, public agencies, and all the generous people and communities who’ve supported the Conservancy’s vision.
“This kind of conservation success doesn’t happen overnight," said the Conservancy’s state director Richard Jeo, “but we believe the partnerships and goodwill that we’ve forged have created the momentum that will get us to the next million! It’s also a pretty exciting way to end the year!”
The Conservancy works across the state, from the western forests and family ranchlands of the Crown of the Continent, into the headwaters of the Missouri River and Greater Yellowstone System, and out to the vast Northern Prairies, where it operates a pioneering grassbank.
Undoubtedly, the journey to a million acres sped up exponentially in 2008 with completion of the Montana Legacy Project, the Conservancy’s purchase of 310,586 acres of commercial timber land from Plum Creek timber company. Since that time, the organization has been transferring the land to public and private owners.
Most recently, the U.S. Forest Service purchased 11,600 acres of Legacy land in the Lolo and Flathead National Forests. The land in this purchase includes acreage in the Petty Creek area west of Missoula, on Marshall Mountain, and in the Swan Valley. As with most of the project deals, the transfer reconnects land that had been fragmented into a checkerboard of public and private ownership – threatening its natural values and resulting in costly and disjointed management. By consolidating ownership, the overall benefits of the land for wildlife, recreation, and working forests greatly exceeds the acres purchased.
Local resident Doug McCoy and his wife regularly hike in the area and are delighted with the sale.
"As landowners in the Petty Creek Valley for over 18 years, my wife and I are grateful to both the Montana Legacy Project and the United States Forest Service (USFS) for their successful efforts in maintaining the legacy of public access to the over 10,000 acres of the former, local Plum Creek properties. It is extremely gratifying to know that this beautiful valley and the surrounding mountains will be protected from development and accessible to the public for both present and future generations.” said McCoy.
This purchase and the latest conservation easements are examples of how the Conservancy finds the right set of tools, partners, and vision to achieve conservation that will stand the test of time.