In the past two years, several farmers and ranchers in the Stevensville area have made unique commitments to the future of the community by voluntarily conserving their family land. The Bitter Root Land Trust has partnered with these conservation-minded landowners to help them complete conservation easements on over 700 acres near Stevensville.
Two years ago, the Stevensville-based non-profit, Friends of Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, recognized the importance of these landowner-driven conservation efforts, including their positive impact on the important wildlife habitat of the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, and made a $10,000 grant to the Bitter Root Land Trust to support private landowners’ conservation efforts in the vicinity of the Refuge.
As landowner interest in conservation easements has grown in the Stevensville area, so has the Bitter Root Land Trust’s workload. In response to the momentum created by so many conservation-minded landowners, the Friends of Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge recently provided an additional $10,000 grant to the Bitter Root Land Trust to help fund additional conservation projects in 2013.
“The Friends of the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge have supported conservation efforts benefiting the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge over the past decade,” said Friends’ President Paul Hayes. “We want to support the Bitter Root Land Trust’s work with landowners near the Refuge because the ongoing stewardship of these private landowners makes a big difference to the water resources and wildlife habitat present on the Refuge. We see our involvement here as a positive investment in the Refuge’s future.”
“Our partnership with the Friends of Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge has been extremely valuable for farm and ranch landowners in the Stevensville area and to long-term health of agricultural and wildlife habitat resources on private lands near the Refuge,” said Gavin Ricklefs, Executive Director of the Bitter Root Land Trust. “Conservation easements are voluntary, landowner-driven conservation tools that are unique to each family
and their vision for their family lands. As a result, they can be time consuming and expensive to do right. The Friends’ grant allows the Bitter Root Land Trust to meet landowner demand for our services and help more landowners in the Stevensville area leave a lasting legacy for future generations.”
For their part, the Friends of Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge see real benefits to the unique resources present on the Refuge. The long-term health and viability of private ranchlands near the refuge helps maintain healthy habitat for wildlife, birds, fish both on and off the Refuge.
“From the founding of our Friends group to the present, and on into the future, our mission is to support and enhance the virtues of the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge,” said Dale Burk of Stevensville, a founding board member of the Friends group. “This cooperative venture with the Bitter Root Land Trust makes the potential for that enhancement even more visceral than the many, many projects we’ve accomplished on behalf of the Metcalf Refuge over the years because it portends working with our neighbors and other friends in the valley to identify and accomplish even greater victories on behalf of the Refuge and its environs.”
The Friends’ grant ensures the Bitter Root Land Trust will have the resources necessary to work with area landowners interested in conserving their family farm or ranch.
“With this donation, the Friends of the Lee Metcalf Refuge have helped more local families realize their conservation vision for their important ranchlands, said Tori Nobles, Bitter Land Trust President. “The board and staff of the Bitter Root Land Trust are very grateful.”
Fred Thomas, Friends’ Secretary, said, “We felt that the Bitter Root Land Trust’s work was a good fit for our organization. They provide a voluntary, landowner-driven tool to conserve important landscapes in this community. These projects will likely have substantial conservation results for resources that we care deeply about on and around the Lee Metcalf Refuge.”
For more information about the Friends of the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, visit their website at www.friendsofleemetcalf.com.
The Bitter Root Land Trust has been partnering with local landowners to conserve the water, wildlife, and working farms and ranches of the Bitterroot Valley for 15 years. For more information about private land conservation contact the Land Trust at 375-0956, or visit the website at www.bitterrootlandtrust.org.