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Valley acreage conserved for habitat

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News from Flathead Land Trust

MISSION VALLEY — Land important for birds and other wildlife was conserved in the Mission Valley last week as Flathead Land Trust purchased a conservation easement of 159 acres from John Weaver. The acreage will remain in private ownership and under Weaver’s management as a working farm, but the conservation easement will ensure the land will remain as open space allowing it to continue to be a working farm and valuable wildlife habitat in perpetuity.

Weaver’s 159-acre property has beautiful views of the Mission Mountains and is less than a mile from the National Bison Range. It includes more than a half-mile of Sabine Creek and a half-mile of an unnamed creek (both spring-fed), and 38 acres of wetlands all critical for many species of wildlife including black bear, grizzly bear, white-tailed deer, hawks, waterfowl, and many other birds, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Fireflies even use the property — only the second location in western Montana fireflies are known to occur. Weaver’s property contains many diverse and unique wetlands; one of the forested wetlands with quaking aspen and skunk cabbage has comparable value to a wetland community listed as “imperiled” by the Montana Natural Heritage Program.

Weaver also enjoys raising horses on his property and wanted to maintain open space that might otherwise be developed to continue traditional agricultural practices on his rich farmland. More than 25 percent of Weaver’s ranch has been designated as “prime farmland” or “farmland of local importance” by the Natural Resource Conservation Service.  

Flathead Land Trust was able to purchase the conservation easement from Weaver with funding from a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant they received to protect wetlands and migratory bird habitat. 

“Purchased conservation easements are a great tool for conserving important fish and wildlife habitat on private lands, especially for those with little or modest income,” Weaver said. “I was keen to partner with a respected local land trust to conserve these natural values of my property.” 

Flathead Land Trust keeps unique and special places like this intact in northwestern Montana that contribute to sustaining excellent water quality, abundant fish and wildlife, and rich farm soils well into the future.

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