The word “Montana” often conjures up an image of wild beauty: rugged mountains, abundant wildlife, verdant meadows dotted with livestock, and spectacular vistas. These are precisely the conservation values of Five Valleys’ newest conservation easement in the Jocko Valley. Susie Miller and Elon Gilbert, and their son Pete Lindbergh, have carefully stewarded this place, located near Arlee, for over 20 years. Now, their 155-acre conservation easement will ensure that their years of service to the landscape will be protected into the future.
The property is bordered by Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal lands or other conservation easements on nearly every side, and the Rattlesnake Wilderness and Recreation Area lies to the southeast. This connectivity to protected lands provides a buffer zone for the area’s iconic wildlife, including deer, black bears, wolves, mountain lions, and a plethora of smaller mammals, to move freely across the landscape. The property is also home to several Montana Species of Concern, including golden eagles and grizzly bears.
The land itself is rich. Ninety-eight percent of the property contains soils designated as Prime if Irrigated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Indian people have a long history of using the property. Over the last century, farmers put these fertile soils into agricultural production. Today, the next generation of agricultural producers are not only raising hay and livestock, but are also exploring new crops that can be produced here sustainably.
Perhaps best of all, the backdrop to all this vivacity is the breathtaking Mission Mountain Range. As travelers of Highway 93 leave the busy Missoula Valley and drive north, the Jocko Valley opens around them. However, the area encompassing Miller-Gilbert-Jocko property is the only portion of the Jocko Valley where the Mission Mountains are visible. And it’s truly a vision to behold: the green valley floor rising into snowcapped mountaintops.
The project was made possible by donations from the landowners. We are so grateful for their generosity and appreciate their commitment to ensuring that western Montana’s natural legacy endures.
Header photo by Chris Gibisch