Elk Flats Neighbors Project

October, 1 2013  |  by kevin Back »

Swan Valley Partners Share A Common Vision For Their Land

Vital Ground has teamed up with six landowners in Montana’s Swan Valley to further our goals under the organization’s Swan Valley Grizzly Bear Habitat Conservation Initiative. Through a combination of five permanent conservation easements and one fee title acquisition, the effort aims to protect nearly 320 acres located in the headwaters of Cold Creek, an important tributary to the Swan River. Earlier this fall, Vital Ground and property owners signed agreements to pursue the projects for closing by the end of 2013 – the deadline under which the currently enhanced tax incentives for conservation easement donations are set to expire.

Through generous bargain sales involving significant donations of portions of each conservation easement, the landowners and Vital Ground will build on the organization’s very first conservation easement at Coyote Forest, which was completed in 2005 in partnership with Bud Moore. It is fitting that one of the ownerships included in the Elk Flats Neighbors Project is held by Bud’s son, Bill, and his wife, Jean.

The Elk Flats Neighbors Project will protect several permanent and ephemeral ponds and stream segments, including this 2 1/2-acre glacial pothole formerly known as Long Meadows when it was historically drained for hay production by early homesteaders. Photo by Ryan Lutey.

The Elk Flats Neighbors Project will protect several permanent and ephemeral ponds and stream segments, including this 2 1/2-acre glacial pothole formerly known as Long Meadows when it was historically drained for hay production by early homesteaders. Photo by Ryan Lutey.

Reflecting on the momentum sparked by Bud’s initial commitment to protecting the Elk Flats neighborhood, Bill said, “Pop [Bud Moore] and Vital Ground pioneered a unique and successful relationship in the protection of conservation values in the Swan. We are continuing the concept of maintaining vital wildlife habitat as well as productive private forests. We are ‘Listening to the Land’ and striking a sustainable balance in our part of the Upper Swan Valley.”

Joining Vital Ground and Bill and Jean Moore in the collaboration are neighbors Larry and Helen Rasmussen, Mark and Carolyn Lawrence, Linn Lawrence, Don Schmitz and Michael Stevenson.

Since Vital Ground’s first conservation easement at Coyote Forest, significant conservation investments in the immediate area have also been made by organizations and agencies including The Nature Conservancy of Montana, Swan Ecosystem Center, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, U.S. Forest Service and Bonneville Power Administration.

In total, the parcels included in the Elk Flats Neighbors Project share common boundaries with nearly two miles of U.S. Forest Service holdings leading to much larger protected blocks of wildlife habitat. In conjunction with the other public and private conservation holdings in the area, this effort will help bridge the valley floor between the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Mission Mountains Wilderness.

The properties are located approximately three miles west of Condon in Missoula County, in an area with extensive documentation and anecdotal evidence of grizzly bear use. Based on Vital Ground’s previous work at this location, we know that the project will benefit myriad other wildlife species including whitetail and mule deer, elk, moose, wolves, black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, wolverine, and beaver, along with sensitive fish species, and diverse waterfowl, raptor and songbird species.

In addition to the generous donations of the landowners, support for the project has been committed by Metabolic Studio, the Charlotte Y. Martin Foundation, Oberweiler Foundation, Cinnabar Foundation, Cutler Foundation, Montana Coffee Traders, William H. Donner Foundation and many individual Vital Ground donors. The organization is also seeking funding from the Missoula Open Space Bond Fund, which will make a decision on the request later this year.

Vital Ground will bring you an update on our progress on the Elk Flats Neighbors Project in the Spring 2014 issue of Vital News!