HELENA, Mont. — Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen joined the other four members of the Board of Land Commissioners in approving a significant conservation easement in Flathead County on Monday. The 5-0 vote occurred during the monthly Land Board meeting.
The Owen Sowerwine Conservation Easement will be held on a 442-acre piece of State School Trust Land east of Kalispell where locals have enjoyed recreation activities such as hiking, photography, and birdwatching. According to the Flathead Audubon Society, more than 150 species of birds have been documented in the riparian area.
For nearly 50 years, various groups and individuals, including conservationist Owen Sowerwine, whom the parcel is named after, have supported efforts to manage the land. During the 2001 Legislature, legislation was passed that provided for a non-profit to hold a conservation easement specifically for the Owen Sowerwine natural area.
The project has received broad public support, including a letter of support from the Flathead County Commissioners and dozens of Montanans. The Flathead Land Trust, along with the Flathead Audubon Society and Montana Audubon, worked with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to draft the conservation easement and management plan for the property. Monday’s unanimous vote from Secretary Jacobsen and the Land Board authorizes the conservation easement to move forward.
The conservation easement also generated trust revenue of $970,000 for the Montana Common Schools Trust (K-12 Schools).
“The Owen Sowerwine Conservation Easement is a great solution for recreationists to continue to utilize these public lands, while also generating revenue for our Montana schools,” said Secretary Jacobsen. “This unique piece of land has been in need of a long-term solution that benefits those who enjoy the outdoors, and the public support shows how important this project was to locals and visitors near and far.”
“Thank you to the Flathead Land Trust, Flathead Audubon and Montana Audubon, and the DNRC for their great work in creating this proposal, as well as the collaboration in management over the years and moving forward” continued Secretary Jacobsen. “I’m proud to support this effort to keep access to our state lands while benefitting our Montana schools.”
Secretary Jacobsen has previously supported numerous public land access and expansions, including the Mount Haggin Wildlife Management Area (WMA) addition near Anaconda and the Big Snowy WMA south of Lewistown. Last month, the Secretary voted to approve the North Wildcat Coulee WMA near Forsyth.