By Whitney Schwab, Executive Director
It has been a season of overcoming challenges and completing big accomplishments at Five Valleys. A year ago, our staff was working remotely from our kitchen tables and so much was uncertain. Yet, thanks to the strength of our supporters, landowners, and partners, Five Valleys closed two conservation projects last year, successfully monitored our nearly 200 conservation easements, held brand-new or re-imagined events, and secured new funding that will position us well for the years ahead. Just this spring, our community helped us to celebrate Raise the Roof to Get Outside, our 2021 spring celebration and fundraiser. This event was supported by an unprecedented 42 businesses, as well as hundreds of community donors and over 600 participants who connected to the land with us at trailheads across the region. To each and every one of you, thank you.
While 2020 is a touchstone from which we can measure so many successes and struggles, Five Valleys has always done our best work when we look forward not to just next year, but the next decade. As you received this spring, and which you’ll read about in the following pages, we recently completed a strategic business planning process that will ensure we are on solid footing as we enter our next half-century of protecting western Montana’s natural legacy.
It’s humbling and exciting to be on the cusp of our 50th Anniversary in 2022. There are so many things to celebrate about our history, successes, and the hundreds, if not thousands of people, stories, and places that make it possible. There are also many challenges that lie ahead—a growing western Montana, an evolving state economy, a changing climate, among others. Yet, with our community alongside us, as you have been since 1972, we know that we can continue to accomplish the kinds of conservation outcomes that protect our natural legacy, ensure a high quality of life for our children, and safeguard the lands, wildlife, and waters that make western Montana so special. As you read the following pages, I hope that you are as inspired as I am.
In this edition:
A recent landmark funding award from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will enable Five Valleys to protect working lands and wildlife habitat in this unique and important region over the next five years.
To help guide us into our next half-century of service we undertook a multi-faceted strategic planning process. The four Conservation Initiatives that resulted are designed to guide our work over the next four years with a ten-year horizon for project development and impact.
Read more about this unique project that expanded an existing Blackfoot Valley conservation easement to protect a total of 436 acres of prime wildlife habitat.
In June, the 350-acre Mount Dean Stone Preserve and the 5-mile trail that winds through it opened to the public. Already, the next stages of the project are underway.
From universal trail improvements to university research to new property caretakers, the Confluence continues to be a hub of activity and community engagement.
Header photo of Flint Creek Valley ranchlands by Five Valleys staff