Encouraging land, wildlife stewardship
July 21, 2022
SWAN VALLEY - Swan Valley Connections hosted their first Landowner Stewardship Fair at Swan Valley Community Hall Saturday, July 16. The event was to welcome both new and longtime residents of the watershed and share information about resources available to support private land stewardship.
"We think it's really important to be able to give folks all the information that we possibly can to help them make decisions on managing their properties," said Eli Estey, Swan Valley Connections program assistant. "Whether that be for their own personal use or for the use of wildlife species that inhabit their area or for things like wildfire safety."
Nine different organizations attended, including Be Bear Aware, the Vital Ground Foundation, Flathead Land Trust, Montana Land Reliance, The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), The Lake County Conservation District, Lake County Weed Control, Swan Lakers and Swan Valley Connections.
The five-hour event featured a series of presentations including a bear spray demo with Be Bear Aware, rules and regulations of living with wildlife lecture with Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) game warden captain Lee Anderson, and a Conservation Easement Land Trust Panel with Montana Land Reliance, Vital Ground and Flathead Land Trust.
During the Be Bear Aware presentation, Director Chuck Bartlebaugh and Communication Specialist Lisa Kyer demonstrated how to properly deploy bear spray when a bear approached from three different distances.
Kyer said if a bear charges from a distance of about 60 feet, direct your bear spray downward to a point 30 feet in front of you towards the charging bear and spray. If the bear is closer, direct your spray downward toward the front of the bear and continue spraying until it diverts its charge.
If a bear reaches you before the sound of the bear spray and expanding cloud, Kyer said to drop face down to the ground, clasp your hands around the back of your neck - while still holding the bear spray - and continue spraying the area you are in, preferably upwards if you can.
"Adrenaline usually helps you get through the burning and the bear spray effects," Kyer said. "You just have to keep spraying."
Along with bear safety, information tables provided information about wildlife management, invasive aquatic species, weed control and conservation easement.
Ryan Hunter, the land protection specialist for the Flathead Land Trust, discussed their role in conservation easement - a voluntary legal agreement that permanently limits uses of the land to protect its conservation values. Hunter said Flathead Land Trust has 69 conservation easements that protect nearly 13,000 acres of land. They have also partnered with a number of organizations to protect approximately 4,000 more acres.
"We have a lot of public lands," Hunter said. "There's a lot of focus on conserving public land and managing it. But people forget that private land is really important as well, in terms of wildlife habitat, clean water and just general open space scenic value."
Estey said they hope to make the Stewardship Fair an annual event to help educate new and old residents on the importance of stewardship on private lands.
"We think that landowners' stewardship can be a great way to make these forests that we live in healthy and happy and promote healthy interactions with everything wild."
To learn more about each organization visit the links below:
• Be Bear Aware is a campaign dedicated to bear avoidance and bear spray training. Visit https://bebearaware.org
• Flathead Land Trust is a local land trust that partners with private landowners who want to continue to own and manage their properties under certain conservation values. Visit https://www.flatheadlandtrust.org
• Vital Ground Foundation is a land trust dedicated to protecting and restoring North America's Grizzly population. Visit https://www.vitalground.org
• Montana Land Reliance (MLR) is a land trust that partners with Montana landowners to protect agricultural land, fish and wildlife habitat, and open space. Visit https://mtlandreliance.org
• Lake County Conservation District:https://lakecountyconservationdistrict.org
• Lake County Weed Control: https://www.lakemt.gov/280/Weed-Control
• Swan Lakers is a nonprofit dedicated to water quality monitoring in Swan Lake. Visit http://www.swanlakers.org
To learn more about the Landowner Stewardship Fair and Swan Valley Connections visit https://www.swanvalleyconnections.org