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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.

To celebrate the designation of July as Montana Open Lands Month, local conservationists are joining with Gov. Steve Bullock for a public party on Wednesday at Marshall Mountain.

“This event is to recognize the continued hard work of many people preserving our open spaces – a thank-you to all those who have contributed whether it be financially, giving of time, or by casting a vote in favor of an open space bond,” said Five Valleys Land Trust director Grant Kier. “The support of the community is immeasurable."

The no-charge family-friendly event includes live music by Cold Hard Cash, snacks and drinks for purchase from local food trucks, beer from Big Sky Brewing Co. and free children’s activities from the Montana Natural History Center and Big Sky Bouncers. The event runs from 5 to 8 p.m.

FVLT is also taking the day to honor Missoula Mayor John Engen and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. Engen has led open-space funding campaigns and helped the organization raise nearly $2 million in donations during the past decade.

FVLT members are also honoring Bullock at a separate ceremony the same day at Rock Creek.

“The governor and his staff were instrumental in the partnership that created a unique solution, and a successful outcome, for the community and for this extraordinary cold water fishery,” said Kier. “We want to honor him for this.”

After a developer dropped plans to put a large subdivision by the confluence of Rock Creek and the Clark Fork River, FVLT teamed with the state Natural Resource Damage Program, Missoula County Open Lands program and other partners to acquire the property.

The Rock Creek site has undergone significant cleanup since FVLT acquired it in 2012, including re-contouring some of the meadows to remove a manmade pond and removal of tons of trash and debris. It now offers a fishing access site and outdoor classroom used by the University of Montana, Missoula College, Montana Natural History Center and city of Missoula’s Outdoor Recreation Program.

Since its founding in 1972, FVLT has assisted in preserving 70,786 acres in and around the Missoula Valley. It is currently raising funds to acquire a prominent hilltop overlooking the Missoula Valley from Dean Stone Mountain above Pattee Canyon.

For more information, call 549-0755 or go to fvlt.org.

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Natural Resources & Environment Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter for The Missoulian.