Rock Creek Trust

Big Horn Sheep on Rock Cr., Photo by Paul Lebel

For 54 miles Rock Creek carves its way out of the Anaconda-­‐Pintler Wilderness, through the wide ranching valleys of the upper drainage, and down through a narrow canyon until it joins the Clark Fork River 30 miles east of Missoula, Montana. This spectacular drainage supports habitat for two of the finest herds of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the world, and its near-­‐pristine waters host a renowned “Blue Ribbon” fishery with five wild trout species, including two threatened natives...bull trout and West Slope cutthroats. Elk herds, black bear, moose, white-­‐tailed and mule deer all thrive in the Rock Creek watershed. Peregrine falcons have been reestablished

there, and wolves have again established a presence. The valley also provides a critical link in the wildlife movement corridors that stretch from the greater Yellowstone area to Crown of the Continent ecosysytem to the north, and grizzly bears have even begun to appear in their old haunts along that fragile sinew of habitat connectivity.

Beginning as a trust fund overseen by the Rock Creek Council and the Montana Board of Natural Resources, in 1986 the Rock Creek Trust was created to work with willing private landowners to protect Rock Creek’s famous trout waters, the health of its nationally acclaimed wildlife habitat, its unusual biodiversity, and the open space beauty of the Rock Creek valley. By purchasing land, protecting it with conservation easements, then selling or trading the land in return for further conservation, the fund was leveraged dramatically in those early years, multiplying the original investment many times over in real, on-­‐the-­‐ ground conservation.

In 1996, the Rock Creek Trust officially became a project of Five Valleys Land Trust. As identified by our Regional Conservation Plan, Rock Creek is one of Five Valleys’ five focal areas and provides the most intact assemblage of native species and pristine cold water habitat outside of wilderness areas in the State of Montana.

Building off of the success and momentum the Rock Creek Trust created and Five Valleys continued, over 13,000 acres and more than 20 miles of river frontage have been protected with 24 conservation easements and several direct public acquisitions and land trades. It is estimated that the original $1.6 million fund has been used to accomplish upwards of $30 million in on-­‐the-­‐ground conservation.

Our conservation efforts continue to focus heavily on working with landowners throughout the drainage to protect, preserve, and restore (when necessary) the natural values of this spectacular area.

Fast Facts

Five Valleys began as the Five Valley River Park Association back in 1972.
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