North Forker protects property through easement

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Molly Shepherd on the family’s North Fork property. (Photo provided)

Another key parcel of the North Fork of the Flathead will be protected from subdivision through a conservation easement.

At the close of 2018, a tract of woods owned by Molly Shepherd was protected in perpetuity with the Flathead Land Trust to ensure that they continue to serve as exceptional wildlife habitat and open space.

The 78-acre forested property near Trail Creek sits on a bench and contains seasonally wet areas that are visited by moose, bear, mountain lions, wolves, lynx, elk, fox, at least 80 documented migrant bird species and numerous other wildlife. Shepherd purchased the previously ill-treated property in 1987 and over time has restored it to ecological good health. The property was certified as a Family Forest by the American Forest Foundation in 2014.

Following the 2003 Wedge Fire that burned seven homes and came within a quarter mile of the property, Shepherd constructed a fire-resistant residence on the property, using cinderblocks and metal roofing, that has been featured by The Big Sky Journal and Pew Charitable Trusts.

“If I could revisit my beloved North Fork property in 100 years, I’d hope to see a resilient, sustainable forest and a welcoming refuge for diverse wildlife and birds. Granting a conservation easement on the property assures long-term stewardship of the property and a means of realizing my vision. That assurance means a great deal to me.” Shepherd said.

Placing the property into a conservation easement with the Flathead Land Trust allows Shepherd to own and manage the property as she always has, but ensures that the property will never be subdivided or overly developed even after she passes it on to her heirs or it transfers to subsequent owners, thus ensuring protection of its wildlife habitat and open space in perpetuity.

For the Flathead Land Trust, the property is an exceptional addition to the protected private land in the North Fork.

“Conserving the outstanding ecological values in the North Fork has been a long-term project for the Flathead Land Trust. Working with Molly Shepherd to include her property in the network of the valley’s protected private land has been an absolute pleasure. I was so happy to be able to help Molly fulfill her, and our, conservation goals for her beautiful property” said Ryan Hunter of the Flathead Land Trust.

The Flathead Land Trust has 386 acres of private land in the North Fork conserved through conservation easements and has helped to conserve an additional 1,112 acres in the area through partnerships. Flathead Land Trust is working to conserve an additional 30 acres near Polebridge in the coming few months.

The North Fork Flathead River valley is one of the most ecologically intact and wild river valleys of the lower 48 states where nearly all of the original species that existed prior to European settlement still roam the woods.

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