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Joe Boyer, with his dog Jake at his side, visits the grave of his father, Joe Boyer Sr., on the family ranch near Frenchtown in December 2009.

FRENCHTOWN – With the dedication of ranch owner Joe Boyer, more than 1,000 acres of ranchland and the home to 80 bird species are conserved in Frenchtown for future generations, Five Valleys Land Trust announced this week.

“The Boyer family has farmed and ranched on this property for over a century,” Grant Kier, executive director of Five Valleys Land Trust, said. “Joe Boyer has watched as much of the land in the area has been turned into subdivisions and gravel pits, and he wanted to (ensure) that his family’s ranching legacy can continue.”

Five Valleys first began talking with Boyer in 1999, said Pelah Hoyt, project manager. He was interested in conserving the land, but it took time to build trust. His commitment means the effort to conserve the historic ranch, home to a great blue heron rookery and native grasses, is complete.

“We really appreciate his patience because it’s a wonderful piece of land,” Hoyt said.

The most recent phase adds two more parcels into a 2009 conservation easement. The project was supported with $412,000 in public and private funding sources, including $198,000 from the Missoula County Open Space program. Five Valleys also received funding from the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and Five Valleys Audubon Society.

“The upland and wetland habitats support an amazing diversity of birds and other wildlife,” said Jim Brown, habitat protection chair for Five Valleys Audubon. “The ranchland is part of the Clark Fork River-Grass Valley Important Bird Area and is an outstanding example of how significant wildlife and agriculture can coexist.”

In the Boyer family for more than a century, the land also is home to the Lewis’ woodpecker, peregrine falcon and lazuli bunting.

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at @KeilaSzpaller, 523-5262, or on

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