Missoula, MT - The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Forest Service have connected some of Missoula’s most popular local trails in the Deer Creek area. The latest USFS purchase of 2,189 acres at the lower end of Deer Creek Road and around the base of University Mountain also creates future connection opportunities with the popular Kim Williams Trail. The area has long been valued by Missoula-area hikers, bicyclists, runners, picnickers, and folks just looking for a scenic getaway close to town. The land will also connect the Lolo National Forest with the new Milltown/Two Rivers State Park.
“These new parcels are going to make a wonderful addition to the public lands in our local community. They open up all sorts of possibilities for recreational trails between the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area, the new Mill Town/Two Rivers State Park, and the university section in Missoula. We look forward to exploring these opportunities with new and old partners over the next few years, “said Missoula District Ranger Paul Matter.
Beyond the land’s recreational use, Deer Creek is a valuable spawning and rearing tributary for westslope cutthroat trout. In fact, the creek is unique in that it supports a large, genetically-pure population of this native fish. Westslope cutthroat trout are classified as a “species of concern” in Montana due to their decreasing numbers and distribution.
The former industrial timberland (480 acres in Petty Creek and 1,709 in Deer Creek) was purchased from Plum Creek Timber by the Conservancy in 2008 as part of its Montana Legacy Project. In 2010, the USFS purchased 57,450 acres of Legacy land on the Missoula Ranger District – including parcels in the Deer Creek drainage just east of the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area and in the Lolo Creek area.
“This is another step in fulfilling our vision for the Legacy Project; to conserve the natural bounty of this land and ensure it remains open to the public as a place to work and play for many generations to come,” adds Kat Imhoff, State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Montana.
The area has had a long history of illegal dumping and unregulated off-road use. Prior to sale of the land, the Conservancy did extensive cleanup, which the USFS has continued. The agency has also stepped up regulation of previously unmanaged and destructive off-road use.
The purchase was made through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund was established by Congress in 1964 using monies raised through fees paid by companies drilling offshore for oil and gas.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.