Five Valleys, The Nature Conservancy, and USFS Establish Mount Dean Stone Community Forest

Five Valleys Land Trust is thrilled to announce its recent acquisition of 2,470 acres along Missoula’s southern rim and the creation of the Mount Dean Stone Community Forest. The Mount Dean Stone Community Forest is the culmination of years of work by The Nature Conservancy, Five Valleys Land Trust, and other community partners, and marks a milestone in the decades-long effort to protect public use of more than 300,000 acres of formerly industrial timber land across western Montana.  

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the project’s partners and essential funding from the US Forest Service Community Forest Program and the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, public access to this cherished community open space will be protected.

“Five Valleys’ purchase of the Mount Dean Stone Community Forest parcel marks a significant milestone in the community’s effort to protect and expand public access to Mount Dean Stone,” says Whitney Schwab, Executive Director of Five Valleys Land Trust. “The US Forest Services' Community Forest Program is innovative in that it enables community management of forestlands. Five Valleys looks forward to continuing The Nature Conservancy's legacy of stewardship on Mount Dean Stone as we work alongside our partners and with the needs of community and natural resources in mind.”
Mount Dean Stone as seen from McCauley Butte, photo by Mark Mesenko.

Mount Dean Stone, a 6,200-ft peak located just south of Mount Sentinel, is easily identified along the Missoula skyline by its assortment of radio towers. The timbered draws and grassy slopes of the mountain offer the community an opportunity to expand access to trails and outdoor recreation while also protecting important wildlife habitat from subdivision and mitigating the risk of wildfire close to town.

Above: Community members at Little Park Creek by Olga Helmy; Below: Elk near Mount Dean Stone by Alan Ramsey/MPG Ranch

Since the project’s inception, it has resulted in the creation or enhancement of five trailheads that connect over 16 miles of trail. The Mount Dean Stone Community Forest represents the next phase in establishing a community outcome for the landscape, where historic public access has been allowed through the leadership of The Nature Conservancy. The project represents a key part of a 180-degree arc of conservation lands that now surround the City of Missoula, including the previous Five Valleys projects of Mount Jumbo, portions of Mount Sentinel and the North Hills, open spaces in the Rattlesnake Valley, the Mount Dean Stone Preserve, and the new Bluebird Preserve.  

Trails on the Mount Dean Stone Community Forest by Lee Boman

The Mount Dean Stone project is a community partnership comprised of over 20 organizations, agencies, businesses, and individuals that came together to form the Mount Dean Stone Committee. Committee members include The Nature Conservancy, Five Valleys Land Trust, the City of Missoula, Missoula County, Run Wild Missoula, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, MTB Missoula, Summit Independent Living, Hellgate Hunters and Anglers, Montana Trout Unlimited, REI Co-Op, Providence-St Patrick's Healthcare, Montana Conservation Corps, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Montana State Parks, Big Sky Brewing Company, MPG Ranch, and Sapphire Physical Therapy. Together, the Mount Dean Stone Committee partners have crafted a community vision for the future of the Mount Dean Stone landscape and continue to work to finalize forest planning.  

The Skyline Ridge Trailhead on the Mount Dean Stone Community Forest by Five Valleys staff

The public is invited to enjoy the Mount Dean Stone Community Forest as Five Valleys works to enhance the community’s connection to public lands, improve forest health, reduce the risk of wildfire on the edge of town, safeguard the next generation’s access to the lands we depend on for our rich quality of life, and protect wildlife habitat from development.

The Community Forest can be accessed via the Inez Creek and Little Park Creek Trailheads in Upper Miller Creek, at the Skyline Ridge Trailhead in the West Fork of Deer Creek, or via the Barmeyer or Sousa Trailheads that serve the connecting Mount Dean Stone Preserve property.

Read more coverage in the Missoulian and the Missoula Current.

To learn more and download the most recent public access maps, please visit the links below.

Download the Mount Dean Stone Public Access Map
Learn more about the Mount Dean Stone Project
The Mount Dean Stone Committee partners

Photo from Legacy Point by Five Valleys staff

Photo of Mount Dean Stone by Mark Mesenko

Community members at Little Park Creek by Olga Helmy

Elk near Mount Dean Stone by Alan Ramsey/MPG Ranch

Trails on the Mount Dean Stone Community Forest by Lee Boman

The Skyline Ridge Trailhead by Five Valleys staff


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