Bird Habitat Added to the Smith Lake Waterfowl Production Area Through Partnership
September 16, 2019
On September 6th, 257 acres of important bird habitat was added to the Smith Lake Waterfowl Production Area in Flathead County, Montana thanks to a partnership between private landowners, Flathead Land Trust, The Conservation Fund, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For the past six years, Flathead Land Trust has been working with landowners, Larry and Maureen Baer, to achieve conservation for their property of primarily wetland habitat adjacent to the Smith Lake Waterfowl Production Area. The Conservation Fund bridged a funding gap by purchasing the property in July to hold it until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could obtain the funds to add these lands to the Smith Lake Waterfowl Production Area. On Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added the 257 acres to the Smith Lake Waterfowl Production Area, a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The project adds 257 acres to a block of over 1,800 acres of conserved lands safeguarding a large wetland complex in the Smith Valley for people and wildlife. These conserved lands include the Smith Lake Waterfowl Production Area and private lands with conservation easements held by Flathead Land Trust, Montana Land Reliance, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The wetland complex provides a crucial refueling stop for tens of thousands of birds each year during their epic migrations. The new addition to the Smith Lake Waterfowl Production Area includes 240 acres of wetlands and surrounding lands along a third of a mile of Ashley Creek. It also provides scenic views for people traveling on Highway 2 and using the Rails to Trails bike path both of which are adjacent to the newly protected acreage for nearly a mile.
The protection of this land was made possible by funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. Congressionally-authorized, the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund provides grants to protect migratory bird habitat throughout the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System.
“Partnerships are the key to making great strides towards conserving wildlife and wild places. Today’s announcement is only possible because of the strong partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Flathead Land Trust, The Conservation Fund and gracious private landowners in Flathead County. Together we are protecting these lands for future generations,” said Matt Hogan, Deputy Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Flathead Land Trust completed two other additions to the Smith Lake Waterfowl Production Area in the past few years which have protected an additional 331 acres of wetlands and bird habitat. One addition facilitated the benevolent donation of private land and the other involved purchasing property that had gone into foreclosure owned by a local bank; both properties were made up mostly of wetlands.
“We are thrilled that such key bird habitat is now permanently protected and another special place in the Flathead Valley will be available for future generations to enjoy in perpetuity,” said Laura Katzman of Flathead Land Trust.
“The Flathead Land Trust’s dedication to the protection of this land is unmatched. We are proud to have supported them and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with this important conservation effort,” said Gates Watson of The Conservation Fund.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit our website, or connect connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and Instagram.
– FWS –