Completing our work in 2016 also means finishing my third of a three-year term limit as Board President. For me, it is a great opportunity to pause and consider what western Montana will feel and look like a decade or two from now. It is also a great time to reflect on the huge strides we have made in recent years.
Living in Missoula, I am regularly struck by the fact that I can look any direction and see the places that Five Valleys has been instrumental in protecting. Just over two decades ago we took a bold leap in trying to acquire Mount Jumbo with an open space bond. Many folks said it couldn’t be done in the down economy, but with a Herculean effort by the whole community, by 1996 we had done it. Little did we know protecting Mount Jumbo was just the first of many to come.
In 2016 we announced our Mount Dean Stone initiative, a project that literally dwarfs Mount Jumbo. From my home in Missoula I look up at Dean Stone with both pride and awe at the sheer scale of that project and what it will mean for Missoula’s future. It is as bold today as Jumbo was 20 years ago, but I know that decades from now it will have just as profound of an impact on the lives of Missoula residents and visitors.
As a parent of two kids with countless activities, I regularly drive the many highways of western Montana, and am struck by the many working farms and ranches I pass that have been protected in partnership with Five Valleys and the families that own them. I feel proud when I see that land conservation, wildlife habitat, and clean abundant water is as important to these rural families and communities as it is to mine. I feel happy to be engaged in work that transcends the rural-urban divide that is often spoken about in our state and country.
And, as I have said many times at the banquet each year, I am honored to be part of a diverse community of people whose desire to take care of this place is a deeply-shared core value.
I hope as you read this report you will also pause to look out your window and reflect on this incredible place we live and feel proud to have been a part of protecting it.
--AMBER SHERRILL, BOARD PRESIDENT
Photo by Aaron Teasdale