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Flathead Land Trust announces milestones for Harrell Forest Project

by TAYLOR INMAN
Bigfork Eagle | January 25, 2023 12:00 AM

The Flathead Land Trust announced Tuesday their official ownership of the Harrell Forest, a 238-acre parcel of land they have been working to protect and develop into a recreation area.

In December, the FLT accepted the donation of the Harrell Forest property from their national partners at The Trust for Public Land. According to a release, this will be the first time the FLT has ever owned and managed land for public recreation, which they said is “a challenge they are pleased to undertake.”

In addition to this announcement, the full parcel of land is now completely protected under conservation easement, meaning it will never see any residential or commercial development and will always be available as open space and a wildlife habitat for public use. The Montana Land Reliance worked as their partner to protect the entire parcel of land.

Construction will begin this spring on the property’s 4.5-mile non-motorized trail system, which will include a trailhead and parking lot on the west side of the property off of Bigfork Stage Road. If all goes according to plan, the FLT will have a grand opening by late summer.

The Harrell Forest Project was made possible by donations and conservation efforts from landowners. The Whitney family initially placed the southern half of the Harrell Forest property under a conservation easement and Alan Horn and Cindy Harrell-Horn originally donated the entire property to The Trust for Public Land.

The Harrell Forest Project is part of an ongoing recreation alliance project in Bigfork with the hopes of eventually connecting its future trail system to others in the area. The Bigfork Outdoor Recreation Alliance is composed of many different groups and people who have stakes in recreation opportunities in the area— including Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork, Pacificorp and many others. The group is currently in the process of gathering public input ahead of putting together a comprehensive recreation plan for the Bigfork area. More information about that can be found through the Montana Access Project’s website underneath the projects tab.

The FLT is a local land trust founded in 1985 by a group of community members interested in maintaining the Flathead Valley’s natural beauty, clean water and special places that sustain a high quality of life. They have protected more than 17,000 acres.

Anyone interested in learning more about the FLT can visit their website at flatheadlandtrust.org.

Bigfork Eagle Editor Taylor Inman can be reached at 406-758-4433 or by emailing tinman@dailyinterlake.com