Five Valleys Land Trust is working to create new protected open space and public recreation opportunities on more than 4,000 acres of land on Mt. Dean Stone. The effort seeks to create a complex connected and conserved lands between Pattee Canyon and Miller Creek from town to the Forest Service lands in the Sapphire Mountains. The timbered draws and grassy slopes of these properties offer the community a huge opportunity to expand access to trails and outdoor recreation while protecting important wildlife habitat.
“Fundamentally, this is conservation serving our community goals. This community wants more trails and more access to outdoor recreation out the door. The trails we currently have near town are a core part of our unique quality of life, but they are increasingly crowded and predominantly on the north side of town. Our community is anticipating massive growth in the decades ahead and this is a chance for our open space infrastructure to keep pace with growth and maintain our quality of life and sense of place” said Grant Kier, Executive Director of Five Valleys Land Trust.
This a multi-year project in its very early stages. Phase I, our South Hills Spur project, included several key land acquisitions and conservation easements at the base of Mt. Dean Stone in Missoula's South Hills and Pattee Canyon. Phase II includes an option to acquire land from The Nature Conservancy in Montana that is in a checkerboard ownership with Montana DNRC parcels. Phase III of our project includes additional options of land or easements acquisitions with multiple private landowners.
“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.
The Mt. 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.
Mt. 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 Mt. Jumbo and the Rattlesnake recreation areas are for residents in the northern end of Missoula.
The price tag on the whole 4,000-plus acres project is expected to be about $4-4.5M over the next 3 years. A huge part of what is making this project work is the generous donations of land value from landowners. Most of what FVLT is proposing to acquire will be purchased for half of the market value or even less. FVLT 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.
Missoula Federal Credit Union's Giving Together Campaign is giving away $50,000 to three local non-profits. If you're an MFCU member, vote today to support Five Valleys!
“I think people live in Missoula because of the lifestyle it provides. And I believe Five Valleys Land Trust has added to the benefit of living here.”
“There’s so much value for the community in having these public spaces. When I think about what Missoula would be like without Mount Sentinel, Mount Jumbo and the North Hills, I would love that if in ten years people are saying, ‘Gosh, I wonder what Missoula would have been like without Mount Dean Stone.’”