475 Acres Protected on Mount Sentinel (MT)

MISSOULA, Mont. 7/9/03 — The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Five Valleys Land Trust (FVLT) today announced the acquisition and protection of 475 acres of important conservation and recreation land on the backside of Mount Sentinel.

The bulk of the property – 440 acres – was conveyed to the Lolo National Forest and 35 acres was conveyed to the city of Missoula, filling a critical link between the city and Forest Service, state, and University of Montana lands. U.S. Senator Conrad Burns secured federal funding for the property, while the Missoula City Council appropriated funds for the city’s portion.

“Montana’s open spaces play a huge role in what we all know and love about our state,” said Sen. Burns. “The ‘big sky’ is one of the things that makes Montana so special, and I am happy to have been a part of making this Mount Sentinel land acquisition possible. It is situations like these, where we can work together to make decisions that are in the best interest of the land and in the best interest of the community, where everyone benefits. As a state that takes pride in our great outdoors, working together is crucial to safeguarding the future of our beautiful land, wildlife habitat and recreational areas, and I am happy to have been a part of helping reach this end in the Mount Sentinel land acquisition.”

Owned for decades by the Walter and Evelyn Cox family, the property consists of gently sloping meadows covered with native grasses, wildflowers and stands of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. It is home to a diverse wildlife population including white-tailed deer, marmot, mountain lion, black bear, red-tailed hawks, harriers, and a variety of songbirds. The land overlooks the mouth of Pattee Canyon and the site of the David Pattee homestead, one of Missoula Valley’s first farming operations.

Due to the high quality of the habitat and the developable location of the Cox property, the Five Valleys Land Trust initiated an extensive dialogue about protecting the property with the Cox family more than five years ago. The City of Missoula came in early as a partner, and in 2000 purchased another piece of the Cox ownership on the face of Mount Sentinel. The focus then shifted to the remaining acreage on the backside of the mountain, a “hidden treasure” which remained unprotected.

The Trust For Public Land negotiated and secured an option to purchase the south facing slopes of Mount Sentinel overlooking Pattee Canyon in 2001. The project was supported by Montana’s Congressional delegation. In particular, Senator Burns as Chairman of the Senate Interior Appropriation Subcommittee, spearheaded the effort to secure $800,000 in the FY 2003 Interior appropriations bill for the Lolo National Forest to purchase the bulk of the property.

The City of Missoula played an important partnership role by committing $100,000 early in the process. The leadership role of Mayor Mike Kadas was critical to this effort, as well, when the Missoula City Council voted in June 2003 to appropriate funding for the acquisition.

“The Mount Sentinel acquisition is a wonderful addition to Missoula’s open space system,” states Missoula mayor, Mike Kadas. “This beautiful land connects University, City, State, and National Forest land to provide a wonderful recreational complex, as well as preserving wildlife habitat and views and vistas. We very much appreciate the partnership of Five Valleys Land Trust, the Trust for Public Land, and the U.S. Forest Service in making this dream a reality.”

Missoula County Commissioner Barbara Evans was also an early and effective supporter. “This acquisition enhances the quality of life for Missoula, making our community more competitive and livable. Thanks to Sen. Burns, the City, TPL and partners for making this possible,” said Evans.

“This property truly is one of Missoula’s most spectacular open space gems,” said Five Valleys Land Trust Executive Director Wendy Ninteman, “and it’s thanks to the vision and generosity of the Cox family that it will stay that way for us all to enjoy.”

“There was strong community support and commitment for this acquisition, providing access to all of Mt. Sentinel and the public lands beyond” said David Genter of the Trust for Public Land. “It was critical that community leaders took such an active role – the City through Mayor Kadas’ early commitment, the Forest Service through Supervisor Deb Austin and her staff, the County with Commissioner Evans taking an active role. The entire Congressional Delegation was supportive of the project with Sen. Burns playing a decisive role in securing the necessary funds from a tight federal lands budget.”

“The community pulled together to make this happen,” states Don Carroll, Missoula District Ranger for the Lolo National Forest. “Good things for land and water cannot happen without that sense of community, without love for the land. I’m very pleased and honored to be a part of this effort to protect open space and connect the city to Pattee Canyon. I look forward to working with the City of Missoula, the University, Five Valleys Land Trust, and citizens on management of Mount Sentinel.”

The recreational benefits of the acquisition are considerable. By connecting the City lands on the face of Mount Sentinel and the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area, the new public land opens up a wide variety of trail and public use opportunities.

A community event celebrating the protection of Mt. Sentinel will be held Saturday, July 12th, from 5 -8 p.m. at the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area. The public is invited to join the project partners for a BBQ, live music, and guided hikes of Missoula’s newest open space jewel.

The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization, conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.5 million acres nationwide with a value of more than $2 million. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. TPL projects in Montana include protection of Garnet Ghost Town, Lindbergh Lake, the Swan River Valley, Thompson and Fisher River Valleys, waterfowl habitat at the Blasdel National Wildlife Refuge, and National Forest lands northwest of Yellowstone National Park.