Board of Directors Op-Ed: Finding Connection, Respite On Open Lands

It seems so long ago, but it was only a couple of weeks back that we at Five Valleys Land Trust were working full-steam with our generous volunteers to plan our 26th Annual Banquet and Auction. Of course, the decision to cancel was quite simple in the face of our shared national health crisis.

Not so clear and simple, though, is the question of how life goes on from here, not just for Five Valleys but for everyone caught up in the dizzying eddy of uncertainty and fear gripping the world. While scrambling to tend to our mission and retool operations to proceed into that uncertain future, we have been reminded again and again of the strength, resilience, and generosity of our western Montana community.

We have had an opportunity to ponder our community-wide tradition of activism in protecting and stewarding the wild and natural land and water that graces us here. And in so doing, we have been truly humbled.

Humbled by, and grateful to, those who came before to protect the places that have become vitally important in the life of our community in these darkest of times. None of those who envisioned what one described as the “graceful civic enterprise” of linking the community to the landscape could have foreseen the situation we face today.

But, we suspect none of those local conservation pioneers would be surprised to learn the key role those places have played in the economic development and the quality of life in our community. And they would not be at all surprised to learn that when fear and doubt loom, so many turn to the natural world for solace and for joy.  

One only needs to look to the hills and trails in any direction to witness how we flock to and cling to the natural world in so many ways.  Even a short walk shows how respectfully we are treating each other and the landscape at this time that we most need the solace and inspiration it affords.  

Where there is human challenge and uncertainty, the natural world abides in its way. The tiny circles of leaves that give way to beautiful bitterroot flowers are appearing in the rocky places on the ridges.

You can find a buttercup on the slopes. The dulcet tones of the meadowlark regularly break the silence. The warm yellow blanket of arrow leaf balsamroot will be gracing the grassy shoulders of the mountains before long, and, soon enough, trout in the streams and rivers will turn their attention to the gaudy orange stoneflies that stir our human imaginations.

This is why we love this place. It’s why we live here. And it’s why we at Five Valleys Land Trust remain committed to the collective work of protecting what our community so values.

- Jeff Roth, Mike Foote, and David Banks on behalf of the Board of Five Valleys Land Trust, as published in the Missoula Current, April 3rd, 2020

Header photo of a community member on Mount Dean Stone by Five Valleys staff

Bottom photo of a pasqueflower by Pelah Hoyt


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