Audubon members, neighbors, and friends of Owen Sowerwine are very excited about the possibility of Flathead Land Trust purchasing a perpetual conservation easement on Owen Sowerwine, a State School Trust parcel administered by Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC). This unique and highly diverse riparian wetland parcel lies just east of Kalispell off Willow Glen Road along the banks of both the Flathead and Stillwater Rivers (Figure 1). This parcel has been managed as a natural area open to compatible public uses since the late 1970s. Flathead Audubon Society and Montana Audubon assumed the Flathead County lease from DNRC in the late 1990s and have been managing through various leases and licenses ever since for its habitat, conservation education, and compatible public use values.

The approximately 442-acre parcel is composed of islands, sloughs, wetlands and mature cottonwood forests that support over 150 species of resident and migratory songbirds such as Pileated Woodpecker and Red-eyed Vireo, significant population of white-tailed deer, occasional black and grizzly bear, many species of small mammals and bats, western toads, painted turtles, rubber boa, as well as westslope cutthroat trout (Species of Special Concern) and bull trout (listed as threatened) (Figure 2). Montana Audubon has listed Owen Sowerwine as an Important Bird Area.

The parcel lies in the heart of a major braided section of the Flathead River surrounded by other conserved properties (in green) such as Otter Island Fish Conservation Area to the north, county park land to the south, several Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Habitat Protection Areas to the east and many conserved farms across the river. The area provides intact floodplains and wetlands critical for reducing flood risks to neighbors and maintaining high water quality in the lower Flathead River and Flathead Lake (Figure 3). 

Figure 3. Conserved properties along the Flathead River near Owen Sowerwine.

Current allowed public uses include activities such as walking, wildlife viewing, nature observation, conservation education, fishing and hunting consistent with local regulations and DNRC access requirements. Montana and Flathead Audubon have created roughly 2 miles of trails for wildlife viewing and conservation education on a portion of the parcel and have been actively managing the area’s weeds and invasive species over the last 19 years. Through Flathead Audubon’s Conservation/Education program, Owen Sowerwine has been visited by hundreds of K-12 students, teachers, and families each year. It is becoming a key part of our new middle school curriculum that focuses on importance of birds to our ecosystems and to our own lives (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Flathead Audubon led field trip to Owen Sowerwine.

The proposed purchased conservation easement, would be an agreement that would protect and secure the future of the land in perpetuity and would be recorded with the title of the property. Flathead Land Trust would pay full market value for this conservation easement and those funds would provide a significant source of income for K-12 schools in Montana. The conservation easement would ensure the forested riparian habitat and wetlands would remain intact for birds, insects, fish, other wildlife, and native plants as well as for the public to enjoy in perpetuity. It also would help ensure we can continue K-12 conservation education programs. 

The mission of DNRC is to administer Montana’s State Trust Lands for the purpose of generating revenue for education and other institutions that benefit the citizens of Montana. Revenue is generated from a multiple use management concept which utilizes all of the various resources available on the state lands. Owen Sowerwine is a parcel of State School Trust Land designated to generate revenue for Montana K-12 Common Schools Trust.  In FY21, Trust Lands distributed $46.3 million to the Common Schools trust, contributing $311 per K-12 student in Montana.

To contribute to the acquisition of the conservation easement online via credit card, head over to our dedicated donation link. To donate by check, make sure you write “Owen-Sowerwine CE” in the memo field and send your check to:

Flathead Audubon Society
PO Box 9173
Kalispell, MT 59904

Your donation is tax deductible.

For additional information, you can contact Laura Katzman at Flathead Land Trust (lkatzman@flatheadlandtrust.org) or Gael Bissell for Flathead Audubon Society (gael@flatheadaudubon.org).

Thank you so much!

One thought on “Flathead Land Trust Proposes Purchase of Conservation Easement on Owen Sowerwine!

  1. […] For more project or auction information, contact Flathead Land Trust (406-752-8293) or click here.  […]

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