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New easement south of Kalispell to benefit migratory birds, waterfowl

by KIANNA GARDNER
Daily Inter Lake | March 23, 2021 9:42 AM

The Flathead Land Trust recently secured a 36-acre conservation easement southeast of Kalispell that is considered vital to a host of migratory birds in the area.

The parcel is owned by Bob Danford, and includes 15 acres of Reed’s Slough and rich farmland that sits adjacent to the area.

The slough is located near the intersection of North Somers Road and Manning Road and is surrounded by approximately 1,300 acres of private lands that also hold easements, including Wiley Slough, a 200-acre wetland.

A fourth-generation descendant of a family that settled along Wiley Slough, known also as Weaver Slough, donated a sizable easement to the Land Trust last spring. It included roughly 930 feet of the Wiley Slough shoreline.

The new Reed Slough easement is the latest addition to a network of parcels the Flathead Land Trust and other partners have worked to conserve along the portion of the Flathead River that winds through south Kalispell before feeding into the pristine Flathead Lake.

According to a news release from the Flathead Land Trust, an organization dedicated to protecting Northwest Montana’s land and water legacy, the area’s wetlands are frequented by more than 100 species of birds and thousands of migrating waterfowl, including tundra swans, snow geese, northern pintail, mallard and American wigeon.

A tagged snow goose that migrated all the way from Wrangel Island in Russia was observed on the Danford property last spring, the release noted. The bird traveled 2,562 miles to get there.

“The conservation easement on the Danford property keeps the land in private ownership managed by the landowner but limits residential subdivision and commercial uses of the property and ensures the rich farmland and migratory bird habitat are protected in perpetuity,” the news release stated.

Danford received funding for keeping the land intact in the future with a conservation easement. Most of the funding was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service North American Wetland Conservation Act, a program that protects migratory bird habitat and wetlands to ensure sustainable populations of waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species in North America.

Other funding for the project stemmed from the Cinnabar Foundation, Flathead River to Lake Initiative, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Wildlife Mitigation Program, Flathead Audubon and Flathead Wildlife. The exact price of the project was not disclosed.

A bike and bird event to celebrate and see this new conservation project and other conservation

projects in the lower Flathead Valley has been planned for Saturday, May 15. Contact Laura Katzman with Flathead Land Trust at lkatzman@flatheadlandtrust.org for more information and to sign up for the event.

Reporter Kianna Gardner may be reached at 758-4407 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com