Five Valleys started off 2018 right, with the finalization of a new conservation easement in Woodworth Meadows. The project helped two families to meet their successional planning goals, enabled the Cahoons to purchase their home site and protected working lands and critical wildlife habitat.
Ralph and Peggy Cahoon have lived and cared for their 100-acre property for many years. Like much of Woodworth Meadows, the Cahoon property is rich land. The entirety of the property is deemed as Agricultural Soils of Statewide Importance by the Natural Resource Conservation Service. The conservation easement ensures that the land will remain available to support hay and grazing, just as it does now.
The Cahoon easement is remarkable for another reason: its proximity to other conservation lands. Five Valleys currently holds four other conservation easements in Woodworth Meadows that directly abut or are nearby to the Cahoon property. In addition, the property is adjacent to both Montana State Trust and U.S. Forest Service lands, and the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area are just a stone's throw away. This connectivity to protected lands is important not only for the preservation of the area's breathtaking scenery, but for wildlife, too. Everything from elk and deer to grizzlies, lynx and mountain lions depend on landscape-wide migration corridors to maintain healthy, genetically diverse populations.
The project was made possible by funding from the LOR Foundation, the Missoula County open space bond and donations from the landowner. At the easement closing celebration, Jack and Belinda Rich, neighbors and family members of Ralph and Peggy, shared a poem by Jack's father, C.B. Rich, about the Woodworth Meadows area:
"Dear Dad I'm kinda' lonesome for the good old days of yore
When we rode and roped and worked and laughed and played,
From our cabin by the meadow where it sat long years before
By the rambling old log house that your Dad made.
Where the sun rose bright at morning over field and yard and stream
And the smell of new mown hay 'oft filled the air,
Where I wrangled up the milk cows and the pasture full of teams
And you filled each manger with its daily fare.
Where we rode the range together just a father and his boy
And our horses had their walkin' race back home,
Where the days of family living over-flowed each day with joy
As we lived there in our valley all alone.
Where we fished a stream together from a horse or car or bike
Which included Meadowbrook and Fishtail too,
And you taught me how to set a fly and answer to a strike
As we loafed beneath those summer skies of blue."
Thanks to the Cahoon project, the "good ole days of yore" will live on in perpetuity.