Since Prickly Pear Land Trust was founded 25 years ago, our community has always counted Republicans, Democrats, Independents and folks of all political stripes in our ranks. Our politically diverse membership has coalesced around the common ideas that Montana’s wild and working lands should be protected for the benefit of all, and that all people should have opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. The work and legacy of our organization, however, has only been possible because of the genuine Montana tradition of working across political divides. And so, PPLT celebrates the conservation successes of Montana’s Bullock administration, and gives a big welcome to the Gianforte administration. Together as Montanans and Americans first, we can create another 25 years of trailblazing conservation.

Photo: Kevin League

After 25 years of continuously growing conservation and recreation efforts, the mark of Prickly Pear Land Trust on the local landscape and this community is undeniable. And the potential for more public lands, trails, and preserves is absolutely thrilling. To celebrate the milestone, we will be spending the next year telling stories on every acre protected, every trail on the map, and highlighting several of the smiling individuals who guided the PPLT family in the last quarter of a century. We’ll have fun new 25th-anniversary designs, merchandise, a 25-week long “Throwback Thursday'' post on our social media outlets, incredible footage, photography, articles on PPLT’s past successes, current pursuits, and our “trail map” to 2046, when we’ll celebrate our 50th.


The Greenway is a “Go!” The East Helena Greenway Project is officially on the path to reality as a result of the transfer of 323 acres of former ASARCO smelter property to Prickly Pear Land Trust. On December 30, after years of multi-partner collaboration, the Montana Environmental Trust Group (METG) conveyed title to 242 acres along the reconstructed Prickly Pear Creek corridor south of Highway 12 and approximately 80 acres along the creek near Kennedy Park in East Helena to PPLT.

The lands will be developed into a park system with 8-miles of trail on remediated and revitalized former smelter lands. PPLT will work with the State of Montana Natural Resource Damage Program (NDRP) on design, construction and maintenance of the Greenway recreational access and educational amenities, using the $3.2 million allocated to the Greenway Project in the NRDP plan that Governor Bullock approved in 2019.
The Greenway Project offers a new beginning for lands and waters in East Helena. The former smelter lands near the newly constructed East Helena public elementary and high schools will be transformed into a trail system that will connect East Helena to Montana City. Once the Greenway trail and amenities are fully developed, PPLT will transfer the 323 acres to the East Helena Public Schools. Where possible, the trail will be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible to encourage people of all ages and abilities to enjoy this community asset.
Kicking off in 2021, PPLT will begin trail design and bring it’s first classes from local schools out onto the land for outdoor education. The Greenway project will be the latest and most ambitious project in Prickly Pear Land Trust’s Community Conservation portfolio.

Photo: Eliza Wiley
I have always taken advantage of the trails around Helena, the last 8 months even more so. My English Springer Spaniel absolutely loves the trails and water access at Ten Mile.
-Melanie Symons


Since Helena entered lockdown and then bounced between reopening and not, PPLT staff and board have had very few opportunities to do what we do best, gather outside and work with our community members. And so most of you have not had the chance to meet Rachel Rountree, PPLT’s new Associate Director, though she’s been here almost a year.

As the AD, Rachel runs the daily operations of the organization. She oversees finance, communications & PR, operations, development, HR, facilities, events and board development. In other words, Rachel makes the PPLT Train run on time. And she’s good at it!

Before PPLT, Rachel navigated nonprofit and political fundraising, working with clients from all over the world. Pairing her career with her love for the outdoors, Rachel became the Development Director for The Trail Foundation in Austin, Texas a position she held for six years. But even then, Rachel had her sights set on Helena—drawn in by the family-friendly community and, of course, our mountains, wilderness, and trails!

She hit the ground running in the spring of 2020 helping PPLT convert to remote work and virtual races, and to become an online community center. While Rachel and her family have already taken full advantage of their first year in Montana, hiking, hunting, fishing, and running, she is thrilled for the day to have a beer with everyone in her new hometown.

The Montana State Legislature has officially convened, both in the Capitol and from home, and has a large slate of bills making their way to the floor. Prickly Pear Land Trust, along with the state land trust umbrella organization, Montana Association of Land Trusts (MALT), will be keeping a sharp eye on all the bills pertinent to landscape and wildlife conservation as well as outdoor recreation.

PPLT, through our social media channels and this e-newsletter, will work to keep you up-to-date on any bills that have a big impact on conservation, agriculture, and trails within our state. In the last session, a wide array of conservation groups (and individual conservationists) came together and helped Helena’s own Senator Terry Gauthier pass a stellar bill creating new funding opportunities for recreation development and maintenance projects statewide. Your voice matters!
If you are interested in learning more or getting involved more directly, the common web location for legislature activities is All committee meetings will have a video-stream link and an audio-stream link so you can watch or listen in at your leisure.

To provide input directly to legislators or committees, you can send a message on the Montana State Legislature webpage. Options to testify remotely via ZOOM can also be found here. The public is allowed to attend hearings at the capitol, but because of social distancing, you may only be allowed in the room when it is your time to testify and may not be able to stay in the room. It is recommended that you wear a mask or face covering in the Capitol Building and in hearing rooms.
January 2021 View as Webpage
Prickly Pear Land Trust