Conservation Opportunity for Missoula, MT

Missoula, Montana –Five Valleys Land Trust and the Trust for Public Land have secured an option from the family of Walter and Evelyn Cox to purchase 475 acres of land on the south facing slopes of Mount Sentinel above Pattee Canyon. The property, which has been in the Cox family since 1958, has been identified by the City and County of Missoula as “cornerstone” or high-priority conservation land. Bordered by state, national forest, and private land in Pattee Canyon, the property has significant conservation, scenic, and recreational values. It is home to native plants and wildlife, including resident and migrant birds, and mule deer and whitetail deer.

Last spring, Five Valleys Land Trust successfully facilitated the City’s purchase of the south half of the face of Mount Sentinel. Protection of the back side of the mountain would result in even greater public benefit, according to Wendy Ninteman, Executive Director of Five Valleys Land Trust.

“When you look at the public and private land protection that has already been accomplished on Mount Jumbo, Mount Sentinel, and in Pattee Canyon, you see a unique opportunity for this community to create a sizeable conservation complex on Missoula’s western edge.” Ninteman said.

David Genter, of the Trust for Public Land, agrees that the public benefits associated with protection of the land are significant. “Throughout the country we are seeing communities grow and prosper based on place-based amenities. Missoula has done a tremendous job in recent years of providing public access and open space along the river, in the parks and especially linking the surrounding public lands with the edge of the city. This makes a community more livable and attractive – two big factors in being competitive for economic development.”

The Forest Service also has an interest in the future of the property, according to Missoula District Ranger Don Carroll. “Open spaces and natural places to get away close to town are essential to our quality of life. The Forest Service supports the purchase of this key property and will work with the community and our neighbors to that end.”

The City of Missoula, which has been a key partner in the protection of Mount Sentinel, remains committed to the project. “This is a great piece of property right on the city’s edge, and we will want to work cooperatively to ensure that this high priority conservation property is preserved and public access guaranteed”, said Missoula Mayor Mike Kadas.

Five Valleys Land Trust is a private, non-profit organization with a mission to protect and preserve western Montana’s natural legacy – our river corridors, wildlife habitat, agricultural lands, and scenic open spaces. The organization has been working with area landowners for over 25 years to secure conservation easements on private lands and to facilitate other land conservation projects. To date, Five Valleys holds 50 easements and has helped protect over 23,000 acres of prime Montana landscape.

The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization, conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in our communities and to protect our natural and historic resources for future generations. Since 1972, TPL has protected over 1.5 million acres nationwide with a value of more than $2 billion. Projects in Montana include protection of Garnet Ghost Town, Lindbergh Lake, Thompson and Fisher River Valleys, waterfowl habitat at the Blasdel National Wildlife Refuge and Gallatin National Forest lands north of Yellowstone National Park. The Trust for Public Land has offices in Helena and Bozeman, Montana.