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Montana news about the environment, natural resources, wildlife, climate change and more.

38,000-acre easement to become Lost Trail Conservation Area in northwest Montana

A map detailing Lost Trail Conservation Area in northwest Montana.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
A map detailing Lost Trail Conservation Area in northwest Montana.

Thousands of acres of private timberlands in northwest Montana are now part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The U.S Interior Department announced the expansion Wednesday.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Trust for Public Land worked together to buy the roughly 38,000-acre conservation easement that will serve as the start of the Lost Trail Conservation Area west of Kalispell. The easement was purchased from Southern Pine Plantations, which bought over 600,000 acres of land from former owner Weyerhaeuser in 2019.

The newest unit of the National Wildlife Refuge system could be expanded up to 100,000 acres in the future. The Fish and Wildlife Service has identified adjacent land where easements could be purchased to expand public access for fishing, hunting and recreation.

This is the first expansion of the refuge system under Interior Sec. Deb Haaland.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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