Critical Wetlands, 4 Miles of Flathead River and Prime Farmland Protected
Land Trust Completes Major Project Along Flathead River
A major project of the Flathead Land Trust has resulted in over 1,000 acres of wetlands, wildlife habitat, and prime Flathead Valley farmland being protected from development with conservation easements, it was announced by the land trust this week. Work on the Louden Family Farms/Church Slough project has been ongoing for several years, culminating last week in the closing of the final two of seven separate easements.
The protected land is owned by the extended Louden family and includes nearly 4 miles of Flathead River shoreline. The property also includes 67 acres of wetlands - critical to keeping the water in the river and Flathead Lake clean – and a large portion of Church Slough, a popular fishing spot that is also home to countless migratory birds and other animals. In addition, the easements ensure that over 850 acres of prime farmland will remain in food production. The family history on the land spans four generations, dating back to the original purchase of several homesteads by family patriarch Hugh Baird in 1911.
“We really appreciate all the Louden family has done for the conservation of productive agricultural soils and fish and wildlife habitat in the Flathead Valley,” said Laura Katzman, Land Protection Specialist with the Flathead Land Trust. “The Loudens are wonderful people and for generations to come residents of the Flathead will thank them for their foresight and conservation planning.”
Louden family members donated a portion of each easement’s value, and money from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) and the Bonneville Power Native Fish Mitigation Fund was used to purchase the remainder.
The project is part of the River to Lake Initiative, a partnership of the Flathead Land Trust, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the American Bird Conservancy, the Flathead Lakers, and others dedicated to protecting a network of critical lands along the main stem of the Flathead River to the North Shore of Flathead Lake.
“A conservation easement keeps the property in private ownership and maintains traditional uses for the land. Landowners maintain the land as agreed upon in the easement and continue to pay taxes on the property, but it can’t be subdivided or developed. In the end, the community as a whole benefits,” said Marilyn Wood, Flathead Land Trust Executive Director. “The Loudens were wonderful to work with. By taking this action, they’re helping us protect things the community values, things like clean water, abundant wildlife, beautiful open space, recreational access and our heritage of working farms and ranches.”