The Flathead Land Trust announced this week that it has placed 78 acres under a conservation easement in the North Fork Flathead River valley, adding to the more than 1,000 acres the trust has already protected or helped protect there through easements and partnerships.
The 78-acre forested property near Trail Creek sits on a bench and contains seasonally wet areas visited by moose, bears, mountain lions, wolves, lynx, elk, foxes, at least 80 migratory bird species and other wildlife, according to a press release from the organization.
Molly Shepherd owns the land, which under the conservation easement will be protected in perpetuity with the Flathead Land Trust to ensure that the property will “continue to serve as exceptional wildlife habitat and open space.”
The land trust calls the North Fork valley “one of the most ecologically intact and wild river valleys of the lower 48 states where nearly all of the original species that existed prior to European settlement still roam the woods.”
“Conserving the outstanding ecological values in the North Fork has been a long-term project for the Flathead Land Trust,” said Ryan Hunter with the land trust. “Working with Molly Shepherd to include her property in the network of the valley’s protected private land has been an absolute pleasure. I was so happy to be able to help Molly fulfill her, and our, conservation goals for her beautiful property.”
The land trust says Shepherd purchased the “previously ill-treated property” in 1987 and “over time has restored it to ecological good health.” The American Forest Foundation certified the property as a Family Forest in 2014.
Following the 2003 Wedge Fire that burned seven homes and came within a quarter mile of the property, Shepherd built a fire-resistant residence on the land with cinderblocks and metal roofing, which has been featured in publications.
“If I could revisit my beloved North Fork property in 100 years, I’d hope to see a resilient, sustainable forest and a welcoming refuge for diverse wildlife and birds,” Shepherd said. “Granting a conservation easement on the property assures long-term stewardship of the property and a means of realizing my vision. That assurance means a great deal to me.”
The conservation easement with the Flathead Land Trust allows Shepherd to continue owning and managing the property as she always has, but ensures that the land “will never be subdivided or overly developed even after she passes it on to her heirs or it transfers to subsequent owners, thus ensuring protection of its wildlife habitat and open space in perpetuity,” the land trust stated.
The Flathead Land Trust has 386 acres of private land in the North Fork conserved through conservation easements and has helped to conserve an additional 1,112 acres in the area through partnerships. The organization is working to conserve an additional 30 acres near Polebridge in the coming few months.
For more information about the Flathead Land Trust, visit www.flatheadlandtrust.org.