Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Collaboration seals the deal for easement

by Daily Inter Lake
| December 17, 2020 12:00 AM

Northwest Montana can celebrate a big win for conservation, forestry and public access to prime hunting grounds.

The Montana Fish and Game Commission last week voted unanimously in favor of the proposed Lost Trail Conservation easement that will protect more than 7,000 acres of wild land favored by elk and deer as well as several other species.

The deal is being made with Georgia-based Southern Pine Plantation, which bought more than 600,000 acres of timberland from Weyerhaeuser in 2019. The pending acquisition would protect vital timberlands, prevent development in the area, protect wildlife habitat and provide permanent public access.

The effort involving Southern Pine, The Trust for Public Land, and Fish, Wildlife and Parks is a wonderful example of varying entities collaborating on a project that will benefit generations to come.

The Lost Trail area is treasured among locals, and we hope this deal helps set the stage for the recently proposed Lost Trail Conservation Area that would authorize the Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire up to 100,000 acres of conservation easements in the area.

While we celebrate the success of the Lost Trail deal, we were sad to report last week that a longtime advocate for wildlife and wilderness in Northwest Montana is closing shop.

Bigfork-based Headwaters Montana will officially close its doors at the end of the year, citing a lack of funding as the primary reason.

Headwaters Montana played a significant role in establishing bipartisan support to protect the North Fork of the Flathead River from Canadian coal mine development through the 2014 North Fork Watershed Protection Act. The group also played an important role in navigating the controversial Flathead Forest Management Plan revision process.

Headwaters will be remembered for its unique ability to bring differing groups together for a common cause — a much-needed skill in today’s polarized society.

As part of its closing, Headwaters has endowed the Loren and Edwin Fields Wilderness Scholarship Fund and the Jack Potter Glacier National Park Stewardship Fund, while also making cash donations to the Montana Land Reliance’s Bigfork Natural Area Project and the Flathead Land Trust’s Badrock Canyon Project.

What a great way for Headwaters to pass along its legacy — and we hope another group can step up to fill its role as a uniter and fighter for Montana’s wild spaces.