The beauty of a conservation easement is that it ensures a property will stay much the way it is, in perpetuity. But sometimes, protection of the land can also mean improving it. In the fall of 2019, Five Valleys and the Thisted family completed the 150-acre Thisted-Josephine Creek conservation easement, ensuring that wildlife habitat and scenic views will be protected, and that ongoing stream reclamation work will continue.
The Thisted-Josephine Creek conservation easement protects a stretch of Josephine Creek and an unnamed stream in the heart of rugged and scenic Ninemile Valley. The riparian cedar forest and shrub habitats of the Thisted property support a wide array of wildlife, including moose, black and grizzly bears, mountain lions, and gray wolves. Thanks to its close proximity to USFS, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and nearby privately conserved lands, the property helps provide wildlife movement corridors for species such as grizzly bear, wolverine, and fisher. Western pearlshell mussels and genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout, a Montana Species of Concern, make a home in the upper lengths of Josephine Creek’s cold, clear waters.
In contrast to its upper reaches, lower Josephine Creek was heavily impacted by historic placer mining. Trout Unlimited has been working to mitigate the impacts of mining in the Lower Clark Fork region for many years, with the support of Missoula County, the Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the USFS. Over the coming years, TU will continue to restore lower Josephine Creek, and can do so knowing their improvements will be protected by the Thisted conservation easement.
Betty and her family generously donated their conservation easement to Five Valleys, completing the conservation vision that she and her husband, Ralph, had worked towards before Ralph’s death in 2017.
Thanks to the Thisted family, their gift of a conservation easement will ensure that this area is not only protected, but improved for fish and wildlife, and for future Montanans to appreciate.
Header photo courtesy of Betty Thisted