Whitefish Community Foundation Awards $15,000 for Bad Rock Canyon Conservation Project

Flathead Land Trust closes in on fundraising goal to preserve 772 acres along the Flathead River

By Beacon Staff
A creek runs through the Bad Rock Canyon Conservation Project area, which encompasses 800 acres along the south bank of the Flathead River east of Columbia Falls as seen on March 9, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Whitefish Community Foundation awarded a $15,000 grant to the nonprofit Flathead Land Trust to help complete the Bad Rock Canyon Conservation Project, a monumental effort to protect 772 acres of critical habitat along the Flathead River while creating new public access and recreational opportunities. 

The grant was made possible by members of the Whitefish Community Foundation’s “Circle of Giving,” as well as other donors who support its Major Community Project Fund.

The Major Community Project Fund is dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations complete capital projects that will have a significant and positive effect on communities in the Flathead Valley. Since the inception of the fund in 2010, $644,000 has been awarded to projects selected by the Whitefish Community Foundation Board of Directors. 

The Bad Rock Canyon Conservation Project will protect habitat used by 43 species that have been identified by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) as Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The project will also offer an opportunity to expand the Gateway to Glacier Trail system for use by hikers and bicyclists.

“We are so excited and grateful to the Whitefish Community Foundation for this grant,” Flathead Land Trust Executive Director Paul Travis said. “The proposed Bad Rock Canyon Wildlife Management Area will protect a critical piece of wildlife habitat along the Flathead River and secure public access to a wild place right on the doorstep of Columbia Falls.”   

The land at the center of the project is owned by Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. (CFAC), a subsidiary of Glencore, the multi-national company that has retained the parcel as open space accessible by the public for decades. The company has decided to sell the property, which is located just east of Columbia Falls south of the Flathead River and does not include the former aluminum plant, which is the site of a Superfund-designated environmental cleanup. 

The property serves as winter range for elk, moose and white-tailed deer, and the proposal to purchase it would safeguard a vital travel corridor for bull trout and grizzly bears, both of which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. It also provides opportunities for youth and disabled hunters to harvest elk and white-tailed deer just minutes from Columbia Falls. In recent years, a trail has been constructed on the land by Gateway to Glacier Trail, Inc., a local nonprofit group granted a revocable license by CFAC to allow access for hikers, bikers, birdwatchers, and others.

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