Field Trip Descriptions

The Blackfoot Tour
Conserving the natural resources and rural lifestyle of the Blackfoot Watershed

Ovando Mountain, Blackfoot Community Conservation Area, photo courtesy of Caroline Byrd

The Blackfoot Challenge is a landowner-based group that coordinates management of the Blackfoot River, its tributaries, and adjacent lands. It is organized locally and known nationally as a model for preserving the rural character and natural beauty of a watershed. Although its charter dates to 1993, Blackfoot landowners have played an instrumental stewardship role since the late 1970’s. Today, the Challenge is comprised of private landowners, federal and state land managers, local government officials, and corporate landowners. Together they work on community-based resource stewardship in the valley through building trust and partnerships.

The Challenge is exploring the development of a 5,600-acre Blackfoot Community Conservation Area south of Ovando Mountain. The concept originated as a part of the Blackfoot Community Project—a locally-driven conservation effort developed by the Blackfoot Challenge in partnership with The Nature Conservancy to guide the future ownership and management of approximately 88,000 acres of Plum Creek Timber Company lands in the Blackfoot.

The Boot Tree, a local tradition, located on the way to Ovando Mountain, photo courtesy of Bruce Andre

The 5,600-acre conservation area is located at the southern end of the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas and north of the nationally-renowned Blackfoot River. Formerly owned by Plum Creek Timber Company, the area encompasses an important transition zone between national forest and productive valley bottoms, with lush riparian and wetland areas and important wildlife habitat. The community values associated with the area are extremely rich with a rural tradition of ranching, livestock grazing, timber harvest, and recreational activities including hunting, horseback riding, hiking, snowmobiling and skiing.

As part of the Blackfoot Community Project, The Nature Conservancy purchased the 5,600 acres south of Ovando Mountain in January 2004. The Nature Conservancy will hold title to the land until the Blackfoot Challenge develops a community-based plan for ownership and management.

The Blackfoot Challenge will host the Blackfoot Valley Tour, which will include a site visit to the 5,600-acre Blackfoot Community Conservation Area in addition to other key sites that demonstrate the cooperative programs and projects of the Blackfoot Challenge and its partners. Tour participants will discuss important steps leading to acquisition of the community conservation area, community involvement, and strategies and challenges to developing a plan for ownership and management. The Challenge looks forward to brainstorming with participants about project successes and challenges in other landscapes.

For more information, please see

"Blackfoot conservation effort wins award, $100,000 grant" The Missoulian, July 10, 2006

View a map of the Blackfoot Challenge

Low Elevational Timberlands Characterize the Blackfoot Community Conservation Area, photo courtesy of Bruce Andre

Swan Valley Tour

Swan Valley residents have been working with the Forest Service, Trust for Public Land, Plum Creek Timberlands, wildlife agencies, and others on a conservation strategy to protect lands the timber company is selling. Plum Creek owns approximately 80,000 acres in the Swan Valley. The lands are prized for their timber productivity, scenic vistas, high quality recreation opportunities and wildlife habitat for native species, including grizzly bears and bull trout. The community wants to protect forests and wildlife, maintain a timber-based economy and have access for recreation and traditional uses such as firewood gathering and huckleberry picking. The heavily forested Swan Valley lies between the Mission Mountains Wilderness to the west and the Swan Range and Bob Marshall Wilderness to the east. The Swan River flows north through the valley and is a major tributary of the Flathead River. The valley is divided in a square-mile checkerboard pattern, complicating holistic management. The Forest Service, Plum Creek and the State of Montana manage land in the checkerboard. The private residences are scattered along the Swan River and the highway. Residential development is increasing and land use is changing as a result of timberland divestment. Increased residential development threatens the valley’s rural way of life. The Swan Valley tour will include sites already acquired by the Forest Service, lands soon to be protected, and lands residents would like to conserve for community ownership and management, due to their timber productivity, wildlife habitat, ecological significance and social values. Community leaders will be on hand to describe how citizens have been involved in the overall conservation strategy and discuss the issues and opportunities related to timberland divestment and acquisition of lands for community benefit.

Visit the Swan Valley Conservation website.

"Power council gives Montana $6 million. Money to buy land in Swan Valley" Spokesman Review, July 10, 2006

"Swan Valley conservation plan finalized" The Daily Interlake, February 17, 2006

Plum Creek Land Divestment Update