Five Valleys Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy have partnered to secure open space and important public recreation opportunities on more than 4,000 acres of land on Mount Dean Stone, connecting public land in Pattee Canyon with Miller Creek. The timbered draws and grassy slopes of the properties offer the public a huge opportunity to expand access to trails and outdoor recreation.
“We’ve worked hard over the past decade to piece back together the checkerboard into a unified whole and the Nature Conservancy has put over 200,000 acres back into public ownership just in Missoula County. Mount Dean Stone is yet another important piece of the puzzle that will benefit all the residents of greater Missoula area – both people and wildlife,” said Richard Jeo, state director for the Nature Conservancy in Montana.
“Fundamentally, this is conservation serving the community's needs. Five Valleys has listened to what the community wants, and it’s more trails and more access to open space. The trails we currently have near town are a core part of our unique quality of life, but they are increasingly crowded. By increasing trails and open space we can provide more people with access to outdoor recreation while distributing those users over a much larger area; this improves people’s experience while reducing the overall impacts on any one area,” said Grant Kier, Executive Director of Five Valleys Land Trust.
The Mount Dean Stone project is bigger in scope than the acquisition of Mount Jumbo twenty years ago, and will permanently secure, enhance, and expand the recreational opportunities for the community.
“It’s fantastic that more people are getting outside to enjoy our amazing quality of life here. It’s a testament to our exceptional open space program. We’re also seeing user groups including runners, mountain bikers, and equestrians get more enthusiastic about engaging in trail stewardship and planning. The scale of this project is huge, and it’s going to take all of the folks who love trails coming together to make it work—we’re looking forward to facilitating that process. Run Wild Missoula is a perfect example of a group that is getting folks really excited about Missoula trails, and is eager to be a leader in expanding trails and engaging people in taking care of them. Run Wild Missoula is donating $25,000 to the project this year and is making a three-year commitment to support the project. It’s the largest donation the group has ever made,” Kier said.
Mount Dean Stone will serve as a recreational area for a part of town without much access, and has the potential to become a cornerstone of Missoula’s south-side neighborhoods much like Mount Jumbo and the Rattlesnake recreation areas are for residents in the northern end of Missoula.
The price tag on the whole 4,000-plus acre project is expected to be about $4-4.5M over the next three years. A huge part of what is making this project work is the generous donations of land value from landowners. Most of what Five Valleys is proposing to acquire will be purchased for half of the market value or even less. Five Valleys is also working hard to only acquire land in fee that is absolutely necessary and to do as much as we can with conservation easements, which adds even more savings. In a few cases we’ve actually had outright donations of easements.
Five Valleys supporters and community members have also made historic cash contributions, like the two incredible $25K donations received from Run Wild Missoula and an amazingly community-minded family who value the ability to recreate on open space. Five Valleys is also doing a community-wide fundraising effort which kicked off at our 22nd Annual Banquet on May 21, where we raised $270,000 toward the project.
Top image: Aerial image by FVLT staff looking west over Mt. Dean Stone framed by Miller Creek (left) and the City of Missoula (upper right). The Nature Conservancy ownership is shaded in yellow and Montana Department of Natural Resource Conservation ownership is shaded in blue.