Stillwater project an important milestone

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State and federal wildlife officials, along with representatives from Weyerhaeuser and The Trust for Public Land gathered near Olney last week to celebrate a conservation milestone for our corner of the state. It was the culmination of a yearslong collaborative effort that has expanded the Stillwater State Forest by 13,398 acres.

In a nutshell, Weyerhaeuser agreed to sell the property, and the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Fish, Wildlife and Parks and The Trust for Public land worked together to purchase the land. DNRC will administer the state trust lands to bring in revenue that benefits schools.

The conservetion easement ensures the forestland will provide sustainable timber management, along with permanent public access for recreation and will conserve fish and wildlife habitat. The deal is a solid win-win for everyone in Northwest Montana who treasures our open space and the outdoors.

The inaugural Under the Big Sky Festival held last weekend at Big Mountain Ranch near Whitefish was the talk of the Flathead Valley and beyond after all was said and done. About 15,000 people attended the two-day music event that was packed with top-notch performances from a wide array of 28 acts that included both local favorites and headliners such as Nathaniel Rateliff. Organizers said they were pleased with the great turnout.

Reports from those who attended said they were impressed with the well-organized venue and the extraordinary talent that took the stage. Organizer Johnny Shockey and his production company Outriders Present deserve a huge round of applause for their attention to detail in pulling off a spectacular event.

Word is, the festival will be back next year, and fans — lots and lots of fans — will be ready and waiting.

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