The Lost Trail Conservation Area is near Glacier National Park, the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, the Selkirk Mountains and part of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains. It provides habitat and migration corridors for elk, mule deer, grizzly bears, wolverines and Canada lynx. “The Lost Trail will provide these species a real chance for sustained and connected populations into the future,” Williams said. “And like other lands in this area, the Lost Trail Conservation Area has been made possible because of mutual interest, solid relationships and an unyielding commitment to Montana’s natural resources.” A conservation area is a wildlife refuge that consists mostly or entirely of conservation easements on private land. Chris Deming, Northern Rockies land protection director with TPL, said the permanent Lost Trail Conservation Easement maintains private land ownership, but ensures public access. “It peels off the development right so we know that what you see is what you’re going to see forever,” Deming said. A collaborative study considered wildlife migration corridors in the area and found that many of those corridors are north of the Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge on land that is now part of the conservation easement, Deming said.
This weekend in Montana, we celebrated the Lost Trail Conservation Area — the newest @USFWSRefuges unit and the 1st in the Biden-Harris administration — that will provide opportunities for families to connect with nature, hunt, fish, hike and see wildlife now and in the future. pic.twitter.com/eaMBtsgmZM— Secretary Deb Haaland (@SecDebHaaland) August 21, 2022
Scientists with the CSKT Wildlife Management Program collared elk on the Flathead Reservation and found that they travel through the Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge, then further north, and eventually migrate back to the reservation, said Whisper Camel-Means, a wildlife biologist with the program. “That was something that wasn’t previously understood as occurring, and so that was a really big deal to see that connection and understand more fully that historical connection that our people had with this vicinity,” Camel-Means said. Malcolm Carson, TPL’s senior vice president, described the Lost Trail Conservation Area as a puzzle piece in a public and private landscape. More permanent easements may be added within the area’s 100,000-acre boundary. “Today’s project will ultimately help in stitching together over 250,000 acres of protected land with other nearby Rocky Mountain conservation projects ranging from Glacier National Park to the panhandle of Idaho,” Carson said. Haaland touted the Lost Trail Conservation Area’s ability to support local economies. Funding for the conservation area was provided by the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Great American Outdoors Act. “Bringing the outdoors and the wonders of the natural world closer to people is at the heart of the Department of the Interior’s mission,” Haaland said. Steve Arca, Séliš-Ql̓ispé language instructor with CSKT’s culture committee, ended the celebration with a prayer, expressing gratitude for the land the event was hosted on. “Today we share. We share something in common and that’s our love for the land, and as we keep it and preserve it for future generations, and to keep it pristine and clean and take care of the wildlife, and just be able to enjoy it,” Arca said. As Arca spoke, 18-month-old Hadley Farron cooed, sitting on the ground in the shade created by her mother. Hadley was about to go on her first backpacking trip with her parents, and her mom, Laura, is optimistic about Hadley’s outdoor opportunities. The family traveled from Missoula for the celebration. “Any time we’re out on public lands, definitely something that comes to mind is just trying to instill that love of nature in her and thinking about what it’s going to be like for her, and if she ever has children, what it’s going to be like for them,” Farron said.
It is the culmination of a 20-year, locally-led effort with federal, state, Tribal and nonprofit partners to conserve big game corridors and recreational areas. pic.twitter.com/WIBnZ8b3jL— Secretary Deb Haaland (@SecDebHaaland) August 21, 2022
Keely Larson worked for two community newspapers in southwest Montana before starting the University of Montana’s environmental and natural resources journalism graduate program. During her first year of grad school, she freelanced for Outside Business Journal and the Montana Standard and received the Crown Reporting Fellowship. Keely is MTFP’s fire reporting intern for summer 2022.
Note: This story originally appeared on Montana Free Press. It is published under a Creative Commons license.
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