Local Organizations Recommended for Trail Stewardship Grants

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks seek comments on proposed awards, including nearly $200,000 for local nonprofits

By Micah Drew
A sign near the Big Mountain Trailhead of the Whitefish Trails system on May 13, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) has recommended that four local nonprofits receive nearly $200,000 in funding through the Montana Trail Stewardship Grant Program (MTSGP) for trail-focused projects in 2022.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, Flathead Land Trust, Foy’s to Blacktail Trails Inc., and the Whitefish Legacy Partners are among 30 organizations statewide recommended to receive $1.44 million in grant funding through MTSGP.

The Flathead Land Trust will receive $75,000 for the Bigfork-Harrell Forest Community Trails project, part of a 236-acre conservation partnership that was announced last fall. According to a March update by the Flathead Land Trust, the grant will partially fund the construction of four miles of new trail with the goal of breaking ground this fall and opening to the public in early summer 2023.

The Foys to Blacktail (FTB) Trails group manages more than 30 miles of trails southwest of Kalispell, including more than 17 miles of stacked loop trails around Herron Park and the FTB Trail that reaches all the way to the ski resort above Lakeside. The $40,392 FTB is slated to receive will be used to clear a section of the FTB Trail known as the Emmons Ridge Corridor.

Up on the north end of the Flathead Valley the Whitefish Legacy Partners applied for a $50,000 grant to help with maintenance along the 47 miles of trail and 15 trailheads the nonprofit oversees around Whitefish Lake and up Big Mountain.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation conducts stewardship projects during the summer with its conservation crew. In 2021, conservation crew members and volunteers maintained 540 miles of trails, built six trail structures, cleared thousands of trees and pulled or sprayed nearly 40 acres of weeds. That work will continue in 2022 with the aid of a $36,000 MTSGP grant.

The MTSGP was authorized by Senate Bill 24 during the 2019 Legislative Session and is funded through $1.37 of Montana’s $9.00 light vehicle registration fee in order to provide revenue for the development, renovation and maintenance of motorized and non-motorized recreational trails and trailside facilities. Revenue from vehicle registration fees for 2022 was expected to just exceed $1 million, but the addition of recreational marijuana taxation added an additional 400,000 to the awarded amount.

Eligible projects that can be funded through MTSGP include development and rehabilitation work on urban, rural, and backcountry trails; construction of community trails; and snowmobile and cross-country ski trail maintenance and grooming operations.

Local recipients of the 2021 grant included Foys to Blacktail, Glacier to Gateway, Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, Flathead National Forest, Whitefish Lake Institute and the Whitefish Legacy Partners.

The 2022 MTSGP funds will be awarded following a public comment period. A complete list of the proposed grant recipients is available online at  https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/grant-programs/trail-stewardship. Comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. on May 26 and can be submitted online at https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/public-comment-opportunities; in writing sent to P.O. Box 200701 Helena, MT 59620-0701; and by email to: [email protected].