Year: 2009
Acres: 160
Ecosystem: Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem
Location: MT – North Fork Flathead River Valley
Project Type: Conservation Easement

In late 2009, Vital Ground closed on the 160-acre Cedar Creek Conservation Easement. The property lies approximately 5 air miles from the northwest boundary of Glacier National Park. The easement was fully donated by the owners, Ed Levert and his sister Catherine Deans-Barrett.

After retiring from a career with the U.S. Forest Service, Ed began focusing his energy on managing the Cedar Creek forest to revitalize the overstory while retaining the diversity of trees found in the understory of his North Fork property. He designed his management activities to protect the water quality of the five wetlands scattered across the property and retain high-quality wildlife habitat for a diversity of species.

Glacial potholes found on the Cedar Creek property provide seasonal wetland habitat for bears and other wildlife species. Photo by Sarah Canepa.

Glacial potholes found on the Cedar Creek property provide seasonal wetland habitat for bears and other wildlife species. Photo by Sarah Canepa.

After 19 years of active management by Ed, the forest now boasts a well-spaced overstory of mid-sized larch trees, a diverse understory of mixed species, wetlands surrounded by thick riparian vegetation and abundant native ground cover. Not only has Ed’s hard work improved the aesthetics of the property, but his vegetation management has increased huckleberry production while maintaining hiding cover for wildlife around the wetlands. The property boasts evidence of bears, moose, elk, deer, song-birds, hawks, cavity dwellers and other small- to medium-sized carnivores.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks supported the project by assisting with some of the transaction and due diligence costs associated with placing the conservation easement on the property. In exchange, the landowners agreed to match the conservation easement to Montana’s Forest Legacy Program, which is administered by the department, ensuring the property will remain available for selective timber harvesting under a forest management plan.

The Cinnabar Foundation, based in Helena, Montana, awarded Vital Ground a grant to support stewardship planning and implementation, which will help us ensure that the conservation values of the property will be maintained in perpetuity.