Explore: West Valley Public Bird Viewing Area Grand Opening

Flathead Land Trust recently completed conservation easements with the Grosswiler and Marvin families

By Beacon Staff
Sandhill cranes. - Courtesy photo by Dick Walker

A bird and wildlife viewing area will be open to the public in the West Valley this fall thanks to over 80 partners and contributors from the community. This public viewing area overlooks a unique pothole wetland surrounded by agricultural land that is part of the only known staging area for sandhill cranes in the Flathead Valley.

Flathead Land Trust recently completed conservation easements with the Grosswiler and Marvin families to conserve almost 400 acres of this critical area and provide for the public viewing area. Under the conservation easements, the land will remain in private ownership and continue to be farmed and managed by the landowner while protecting the valuable bird and wildlife habitat in perpetuity. The families have been farming in the West Valley for over 100 years and the conservation project will preserve their agricultural legacy.

Conservation easements do not always allow public access; however, the Grosswiler and Marvin families have generously allowed for a quarter acre of the conserved land to be used as a public viewing area. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks saw the project as a positive way to accommodate the increasing demands for safe and easily accessible wildlife viewing opportunities for all ages. The agency helped facilitate the project by accepting a quarter-acre public easement for the viewing area and road. The viewing area will serve as an educational site for local schools and other groups. It is ideally situated only about two miles from the Kalispell and close to 26 schools including the Flathead Valley Community College.

A celebration of this conservation project and a grand opening of the public bird viewing area will be held Saturday, Oct. 6, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Flathead Land Trust, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and Flathead Audubon will host this event to thank supporters and view sandhill cranes as they fly in to roost in the pothole wetland at sunset. There will be a shuttle from West Valley School due to the limited parking at the site. RSVP to Laura Katzman at [email protected] or 752-8293. Find out more at www.flatheadlandtrust.org.