TPL, federal and local leaders celebrate permanent protection of 38,052 acres of timberland within Montana's Lost Trail Conservation Area; conservation easement allows for sustainable timber harvesting, protection of wildlife habitat and recreation

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MARION, Montana , August 23, 2022 (press release) –

In Partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Property Provides Significant Hunting and Public Recreational Access While Ensuring Sustainable Timber Harvesting

Trust for Public Land (TPL) joined Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and community leaders today to celebrate the permanent protection of 38,052 acres of timberland in Flathead and Lincoln Counties, within the Lost Trail Conservation Area. The conservation easement provides permanent public access to exceptional recreation lands, while allowing for continued sustainable timber harvesting, and the protection of incomparable wildlife habitat and recreation. 

“This project represents all the best aspects of conservation in Montana: sustainable timber management, protection of wildlife, and preserving access to these lands into the future,” said Malcolm Carson, General Counsel for TPL. “For decades Montanans' access to some of our most treasured land has been guaranteed through little more than a handshake, but at a time when Montana is seeing break-neck growth, TPL and our partners are doing everything we can - to keep Montana, Montana – and protect access to our favorite hunting spots, hiking trails, or secret fishing holes.” 

This project represents the first conservation success within the recently approved Lost Trail Conservation Area (March 2021). The Lost Trail Conservation Area designation provides the opportunity to continue working with private landowners and conservation partners to protect up to 100,000 acres through conservation easements. Funding for the conservation easement was made possible through the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act, which permanently funded the critically important Land and Water Conservation Fund.  

The Lost Trail project’s significance to wildlife habitat protection cannot be overstated. The newly protected 38,000-acres of property lies immediately north of the Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge, providing an exceptional ecological buffer, and offering some of the best and most popular elk hunting in northwest Montana. The property is also critical habitat for grizzly bears and Canada lynx, providing secured connectivity between the Northern Continental Divide and Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystems. The Lost Trail project is not only vital wildlife habitat, but a central puzzle piece of private land in the middle of an elaborate and historical network of public-private landscape conservation occurring in northwest Montana.  

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is excited to add a new unit to the refuge system. This project embodies the “working with others” component of our mission and represents a win for the local communities that rely on the timber industry, public land users, and conservation,” said Ben Gilles, Western Montana Refuge Complex Project Lead for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

This first new unit of the conservation area, along with future successes, complements and builds upon over 350,000 acres of conserved land that has been completed in the area over the last 20 years. Today’s project will ultimately help in stitching together projects such as the nearby 142,200-acre Thompson-Fisher Conservation Easement, the adjacent 7,956-acre Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge, and the recently completed 27,289-acre Kootenai Forestlands Phase II Conservation Easement, and the future 115,000-acre Montana Great Outdoors Project currently being facilitated by Trust for Public Land.  

Over 20 years, TPL has preserved over 600,000 acres in Montana leaving a legacy of public access for future generations, and now with the ambitious goal to conserve an additional 200,000 acres over the next three years. 

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Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres of public land, created more than 5,000 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $84 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected more than 9 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit tpl.org. 

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