Last summer, Five Valleys embarked upon a new era for Mount Dean Stone when we purchased 2,470 acres from The Nature Conservancy and celebrated the creation of the Mount Dean Stone Community Forest (MDSCF).
Community Forests are a novel model of land management. Five Valleys’ local, nonprofit ownership enables us to be flexible and responsive to on-the-ground conditions and engage diverse partners to support the needs of the Missoula area community. This exciting next chapter in Five Valleys’ community open space work was made possible by a grant from the US Forest Service’s innovative Community Forest Program.
Five Valleys manages the MDSCF for a broad set of values including multi-user recreation, wildlife habitat, forest health, climate resilience, and community safety and economic needs. These goals were formalized by the 20+ member Mount Dean Stone Committee in 2022.
Our first field season was a busy one! We worked with the Missoula County Department of Ecology’s Youth in Restoration crew to install new trailhead and wayfinding signage, partnered with the University of Montana and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to complete a wildfire safety timber thinning project in Bear Run Creek, removed trash, repaired fence, maintained trails, managed weeds, opened the MDSCF to Block Management hunting in partnership with Montana FWP, and provided high-visibility safety vests to visitors exploring during the hunting season with Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. The House of Sky Trail also got some limelight when it helped host Run Wild Missoula’s first City to Sky 50k trail race in October.
To support wildlife during stressful winter months, the upper portion of the MDSCF, including the entire House of Sky Trail corridor, is now closed to recreation through May 15th. This closure mirrors a similar dog closure on the upper Mount Dean Stone Preserve, which is located on the northern side of the mountain and is owned by the City of Missoula.
Five Valleys would like to thank our community for making the Missoula Valley’s first community forest possible. While wildlife take their turn, we’re already gearing up for a great next year on Mount Dean Stone.