This fall, Five Valleys was pleased to finalize a collaborative project that protects fish and wildlife habitat and provides additional public access to the Fish Creek drainage. The Koch-Fish Creek project saw a total of 278 acres added to the rugged and scenic Fish Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA), south of Tarkio.
Landowner Randy Koch worked with Five Valleys to shepherd the project forward and negotiate the acquisition agreement that allowed the transfer of two parcels to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) management and into the WMA: a 160-acre section along the main stem of Fish Creek and a 118-acre section in Whitehorse Gulch.
“It’s really voluntary private land conservation. He could sell to anyone, but he was very patient in working through the Montana FWP processes,” said Five Valleys’ conservation project manager Vickie Edwards.
The addition of the Koch parcels into the WMA will help the Montana FWP better manage the landscape for fish, wildlife and public access and will ensure that the lands are never developed.
In addition to its magnificent scenery, the Fish Creek drainage is known for its exquisite fish and wildlife habitat. It is the most important stronghold for threatened bull trout within the Middle Clark Fork drainage. The area is also considered a high-priority linkage zone between the Ninemile Divide and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, providing habitat for elk, wolves, moose, grizzlies and a host of smaller birds and mammals.
The project required the collaboration of more than just Five Valleys, Mr. Koch and the Montana FWP. The acquisition went through an extensive public process and had to be approved by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission and the State Board of Land Commissioners. Funding was provided from a diverse number of sources, including Habitat Montana funds, Northwestern Energy Thompson Falls Hydroelectric Project mitigation funds, and the WestSlope Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Thanks to patience and collaboration, this part of Fish Creek will remain unspoiled for the fish, wildlife and nature lovers of future generations.
Header photo by Five Valleys staff