We are excited to announce that the 2022 Land Access Initiative (LAI) will aid in protecting 150,000 acres of land in northwestern Montana.
This year, we are partnering with Trust for Public Land to support the Montana Great Outdoors Project via their Forever Montana fundraising campaign. This project is the centerpiece of a conservation effort to protect over 150,000 acres of critical forestlands (recently increased from 114,000). It ties together 300,000 acres of previously conserved lands and increases access to existing public lands in the area. These easements will prevent development and ensure continued access to hunting and fishing in perpetuity.
“Over the course of the past year, the MeatEater Land Access Initiative received close to 500 submissions. TPL's 'Forever Montana' stood out for three reasons,” our own Ryan Callaghan said. “Location, opportunity, and timeline–these 150,000 acres will give access to 300,000 acres. The land is already home to hunting and fishing opportunities along with iconic species like bull trout and grizzly bears, but it's currently threatened by development."
Located between Glacier National Park and the Cabinet Yaak Wilderness, this east-to-west wildlife corridor is critical for many species that call this area home. Not coincidentally, the area boasts incredible elk and deer hunting as well as fishing. It’s also used for other recreational activities like camping, hiking, and horseback riding—it’s a place where humans can experience connectivity with the natural world.
"The clock is ticking," Cal said. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that won't be here for long.”
Placing this land under public easement instead of purchasing it outright ensures that it will remain open to wildlife and public recreation indefinitely. If the acreage were sold in smaller parcels to multiple owners, it would lose recreational value and affect wildlife movement.
It’s extremely important—now more than ever—to protect this area. Montana has seen a massive increase in development in recent years, and the pandemic spurred an unprecedented land grab in Big Sky Country. As people and developers stream into the state, real estate prices are soaring and landowners can secure higher prices by breaking up large chunks of land into small parcels. The time is now to ensure the continuity of these intact wild lands.
The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is coordinating the project in partnership with Green Diamond, Southern Pine Plantation, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to implement the successful passage of these easements.
Through the Land Access Initiative, MeatEater has donated $200,000 to the project. This is a good start, but the clock is ticking on these agreements and we have a long way to go. Trust for Public Land has secured public funding to leverage $8 for every $1 donation and will close at the end of 2023. They are raising the last $5 million needed via their Forever Montana campaign with the goal to protect Montana’s outdoor spaces for everyone’s benefit, now and for generations to come.