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Hand – Smith River Project

Eric and Rebecca Smith recently completed a conservation project that protects 97 acres of exceptional riparian habitat on the Flathead River. The Smiths worked with the Montana Land Reliance to place a conservation easement on their property east of Kalispell and north of McWenneger Slough along the main stem and numerous side channels of the river.

Eric and Becca Hand-Smith on their river property. Photo by Lido Vizzutti, Flathead Beacon

The property is situated in a well-established conservation neighborhood that includes a number of other conservation easements, including one donated by Eric and Becca in 2000. The thick stand of black cottonwood and Engelmann spruce along the braided river channels supports a wide variety of waterfowl and other bird species. When asked about the wildlife seen on the property, Eric commented, “It’s more a question of what wildlife we haven’t seen! The presence of the river and the wildlife it supports defines what we love about our property and why we chose to live here.” Becca says “It’s comforting to know that long after we are gone someone else will walk this property and enjoy it as much as we have, unspoiled and undeveloped.”

The conservation easement was purchased in part with funds from a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant administered by the Flathead Land Trust. In addition to Eric, Becca and MLR, the project combined the efforts of FLT, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and other River to Lake Initiative partners. Mark Schiltz, MLR western manager, concluded, “The general health of the Flathead River impacts the entire community. Working together on this project has been very rewarding and adds one more piece to the puzzle of how to permanently improve water quality in the valley.” News story: Unlikely Conservation Easement Advocates Complete Second Deal, http://www.flatheadbeacon.com/articles/article/unlikely_conservation_easement_advocates_complete_second_deal/27923/

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