Dean Stone Mountain

Five Valleys Land Trust Director Grant Kier and philanthropy director Whitney Schwab hike along a spur of Dean Stone Mountain. The land trust is working on several conservation easements, including the latest one near Lolo.

The executive director of Five Valleys Land Trust, a nonprofit that works to preserve open space in western Montana, is stepping down after a decade in the position.

Grant Kier will leave his position at the end of August and the organization's past board president, Amber Sherrill, will take over.

“It’s easy to point to a mountain or a river or a project that means the most to you,” Kier said on Thursday. “But what I’m most proud of is the diversity of projects we’ve taken on over the years. Five Valleys’ mission has fundamentally been about work that has permanence.”

He was not specific about what comes next for him but said he wants to keep a hand in public policy.

Five Valleys Land Trust started in 1972 as the Five Valleys River Park Association, working to create Missoula's riverfront park system. By the 1980s the group worked to pass Montana's first open space bond and transformed into Five Valleys Land Trust. The organization was involved in the city's acquisition of Mount Jumbo and Mount Sentinel.

“You can’t look any direction around Missoula without knowing Five Valleys had their hand in that,” Missoula County Commissioner Jean Curtiss said. “A good leader makes sure there are people in place to follow him. They have a pretty amazing staff and board, but his leadership and relationships really will be missed.”

Curtiss added Kier had a lesser-known but equally significant voice on the Missoula Economic Partnership board. She credited him with keeping focus on Missoula’s quality of life and recreation opportunities as attractions that convince business owners to relocate here or expand their operations.

Kier came to FVLT after spending two and a half years with the adjacent Bitterroot Land Trust. During his 10-year tenure, the Missoula-based land trust doubled in scope and staff.

“Now is a great time to step back,” Kier said. “We have some big, ambitious projects that need multiple years to complete. And we have unprecedented levels of membership support and financial support. Everyone’s fired up to get work done now.”

Those projects include the management of a huge public recreation area on Mount Dean Stone on Missoula’s southeastern rim that involves The Nature Conservancy, Run Wild Missoula and Hellgate Hunters and Anglers; trail expansion on the hills surrounding the former Marshall Mountain ski area east of Missoula; and preservation of working agricultural lands throughout the valley.

FVLT is also working in the Flint Creek Valley to expand conservation of ranchland and wildlife habitat and in the Blackfoot and southern Mission Valleys to increase public access to outdoor recreation and expand wildlife habitat conservation.

“In the past 10 years we’ve expanded our partnerships and become more creative and innovative in how we use land conservation to help communities,” Sherrill said in the release. “In this new role I am excited to work closely with our board, staff, and partners to keep our momentum going while the board assesses our longer term leadership needs.”

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