Can a Montana community run its own forest?

Local citizens collaborate to restore, protect, and utilize Alvord Lake.

 

In the northwest corner of Montana, a coalition of partners recently turned a piece of lakeshore slated for subdivision into a new type of public forest. It exists largely because the U.S. Forest Service in 2012 launched a fund it calls the Community Forest and Open Spaces Program. The fund is vastly underutilized in the West, with more than two-thirds of its 35 recipients lying east of the Mississippi, but as development proliferates, Montana’s now-protected Alvord Lake offers a model more Westerners might consider adopting.

Alvord Lake, just north of the 957-person town of Troy, offers a transition zone for wildlife between the ridges above and the developed river valley below. Common loons nest along the lake during summer, while moose, deer and elk browse its conifer-lined shore during winter. It’s a popular spot for humans, too, with the Forest Service maintaining a 3-mile trail around the lake along with an outdoor classroom frequented by school and community groups. 

Alvord Lake Community Forest in Montana.
Vital Ground

All but one-third of a mile of the lake’s shoreline falls in Kootenai National Forest. The remaining parcel of 142 acres was long owned by Plum Creek Timber Co. At the turn of the millennium, the logging giant harvested it exhaustively, then sold it to Montana Mountain Valley, a real estate developer with big plans to subdivide.

The developer “had one thing and one thing only in mind,” said Troy resident Gary Jones. “To make money.”

Jones, his wife, Kathy, and other citizens had a different goal. After Forest Service representatives explained the proposed development at a community meeting in 2002, the Joneses formed Friends of Alvord Lake, LLC. Their dream was to find a way to keep the area as wild as possible. And they aligned their money with their environmental principles: They came up with the $800,000 necessary for the group’s eleventh-hour purchase of the parcel. As Jones put it afterward, “That land became our IRA.”

Buying the land was intended as a stopgap measure, but nothing happened for over a dozen years. The community favored a Forest Service purchase of the parcel, but found that federal funding was scarce. “I’d get calls from Gary every few years, saying things like, ‘The Forest Service doesn’t have any money, nothing’s happening,’ ” recalled Gael Bissell, a state wildlife biologist at the time. “He’s a patient soul.”

Patience would eventually collide with financial realty for the Joneses. With state and federal conservation possibilities exhausted, the couple faced the prospect of selling the land back to a developer. But that’s when Bissell learned that funding was available through the new Community Forest Program.

“When I looked it up, and it said public access, managed forest land, wildlife habitat, community support, education — it fit every criteria,” Bissell said. “It was a hit out of the park.”

The program requires that a local or tribal government, or a qualified land trust, manage the intended land, and that applicants prove local support of the project by securing at least half of its funding from non-federal sources. So Bissell approached the Vital Ground Foundation, a Missoula-based land trust focused on conserving and restoring grizzly bear habitat. She also teamed with U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Kirsten Kaiser to conduct a meeting to gauge local interest.

“The community reacted very favorably,” Kaiser recalled. “It’s a favorite place.” 

With Vital Ground signing on, the coalition recruited volunteers from the Society of American Foresters chapter in nearby Libby to inventory the parcel and write a forest management plan. Bissell also worked with the local conservation group Yaak Valley Forest Council to detail the parcel’s habitat value and its educational benefits as a demonstration forest.

The result was “a pretty technical application,” according to Bissell, and, in 2014, a $400,000 grant came from the Community Forest Program. More than a dozen other local, regional, and national donors joined the fundraising effort over the next year, and in December 2015, Vital Ground closed on the property. The Joneses’ conservation goal was achieved at last.

This July 8, the community christened its new forest with a free public celebration at the lake. One hundred visitors learned about the area’s natural history, the community forest model, and plans to restore and utilize the space.

“We have an opportunity to make it a much healthier forest,” said Ed Levert, chair of Libby’s chapter of the Society of American Foresters. With Alvord Lake providing a model of collaboration, community forests — created by a united group of people — could stave off development and become a growing source of pride across the West. 

Matt Hart is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of NewTowncarShare News. He is a Wyss Conservation Scholar in the environmental studies graduate program at the University of Montana and an intern for the Vital Ground Foundation.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of NewTowncarShare News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • Located on top of Sugarloaf Mtn. 5 mi W of downtown Colorado Springs, CO. $80,000.
  • The Draper Natural History Museum (DNHM) at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, WY, invites applications for Curator of Natural Science. Seeking...
  • in Southwest Colorado. $60K plus costs.
  • with six+ years of experience, broad knowledge of home and facilities maintenance. 207-805-4157, https://spark.adobe.com/page/8R7Ag/
  • Seeking full-time experienced farmer on 52-acre organic farm Union, OR. [email protected]
  • Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a Government Affairs Manager that is passionate about Western communities and the protection of the natural environment to support...
  • Metal roofing & siding, thru-fastened & seam profiles. Stronger, more attractive and longer lasting than any other panel on the market. 970-275-4070.
  • The Central Colorado Conservancy, a nationally accredited and state certified land trust, is seeking an innovative and dynamic Executive Director to guide the Conservancy into...
  • Forever Our Rivers Foundation seeks a driven and creative individual to lead this national movement for river health. Deadline 6/14/19.
  • We are looking for an experienced campaigner to lead our work challenging the oil and fracked gas industry, specifically focused on fighting fossil fuel expansion...
  • 7/12-7/14/19 in Taos, NM. With over 21 workshops and keynote speaker, poet Arthur Sze.
  • Badlands Conservation Alliance is seeking an Executive Director. For job description visit https://www.badlandsconservationalliance.org/hiring.
  • Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921
  • at RCAC. See the full description at https://bit.ly/2WJ3HvY Apply at [email protected]
  • Newly refurbished and tuned. Older model, great condition. Gasoline engine. Chains on tires. Heavy duty for mountain snow. Call cellphone and leave message or email.
  • Camping, hiking, backpacking, R2R2R, Tarahumara Easter, Mushroom Festival, www.coppercanyontrails.org.
  • Clean off, cool off & drink. Multiple spray patterns. Better than you imagine. Try it.
  • Actively introduce students to Experiential Education, Outdoor Recreation, and Sustainability while engaging and challenging them to learn and participate in these diverse opportunities. Room, board,...


Узнайте про интересный веб сайт , он описывает в статьях про японские соусы tokyozakka.com.ua