Volunteers with Five Valleys Land Trust

Volunteers with Five Valleys Land Trust at Big Sky Brewery.

FVLT

It turns out those beers you drank at the Big Sky Concert Series shows this summer might actually have helped protect open space around Missoula.

Big Sky Brewery has announced that alcohol sales from the 16 concerts raised almost $100,000, and the money will go to various nonprofits around town including Five Valleys Land Trust, which got the majority of the proceeds.

Bjorn Nabozney, a co-founder of Big Sky Brewing Co., said that over the years the events have raised more than $600,000.

“We raised $99,500 this year, pre-tips,” he explained. “And tips are pretty substantial. We had more shows this summer than we’ve ever had. It’s very lucrative for community projects.”

Every year, the company goes through a selection process for nonprofits that are looking to do a physical project.

“This past summer it was focused on building trails around Missoula,” he said. “We worked with Five Valleys Land Trust and Mountain Bike Missoula, they were the primary go-to nonprofits this year for us.”

Five Valleys Land Trust will use $44,000 of the money for its Mount Dean Stone project, a multi-phase initiative that will create a complex of connected and conserved land between Pattee and Miller creeks from town to the Forest Service lands in the northern Sapphire Range.

“It’s a huge opportunity to expand access to trails and outdoor recreation while also protecting critical wildlife habitat,” said FVLT philanthropy director Whitney Schwab. “It’s a critical linchpin of conserved lands.”

Mountain Bike Missoula will use the money to expand the public mountain bike trail system near Marshall Mountain.

Nabozney said state law requires Big Sky to sell the beer to a caterer, The Badlander, which then donates a portion of the proceeds. Each nonprofit is allowed to recruit volunteers to pour beer in exchange for a free ticket to the show.

“The way look at it, we’re giving back to the community, which is really fun,” he said. “We’ve supported I Ride For Tanner, the Missoula Historical Museum, Brennan’s Wave, Mobash Skate Park."

Schwab said that more than 100 people volunteered for FVLT this summer.

“It’s phenomenal what Big Sky is doing,” she said. “What speaks to me so deeply is the true philanthropic leadership in our community. For a business to do that, it’s huge. We’ve got tons of generous businesses here, so it’s not just (Big Sky), but they’ve really taken the opportunity to be leaders.”

Schwab said the Mount Dean Stone project will create a 180-degree arc of public and protected land.

“The south end of town is the fastest-developing end of Missoula and has the least connected trails out people's doors,” she said. “This project is really our generation’s Mount Jumbo. It’s a really significant opportunity and Big Sky been on the forefront of that. Their big passion is contributing to Missoula’s quality of life. Recreation with Dean Stone is huge for both the older generations and the newer generations.”

Big Sky chooses organizations that have an established reputation for getting work done, and he said Five Valleys Land Trust commits all the donated money to the project rather than spending some of it on administrative costs.

“We keep an ear to the ground to see if a physical project is outdoorsy and if it gets people moving and gives them a reason to be outside,” he said. “We caught wind of the Five Valleys deal and thought it’s such a huge benefit to Missoula. We want to be a part of that. It’s a real privilege and real cool to do things like that in our backyard. We’re fortunate to be in a community that’s so accepting of music and we can use music to do some super-cool things in our neighborhoods. And people are donating by drinking beer and listening to music. How cool is that?”

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