June E-Views
An Important Time for Open Space
June 11, 2020 View as Webpage
In the last couple months, we have heard it from every corner of our community just how lucky we are to live where we live. Close to home, your support has made land protection and trails possible on Mount Ascension and Mount Helena; we don’t have to wander far to see the fruits of our labor. That land will remain public forever. We are so very grateful for your support of PPLT right now. Thank you!
Conservation at Your Doorstep— PPLT Potter Ranch Project Needs Your Support
This summer, Prickly Pear Land Trust is working to complete its largest and most visible conservation easement project yet. Just down the road, about ten miles east of Helena, the dramatic Potter Ranch rises up the western slope of the Spokane Hills. With Lewis and Clark County support, the proposed conservation easement would protect, forever, over 3,100 acres and preserve open space and habitat that we look at everyday in the Helena Valley. Next week, PPLT will bring the nearly two year project before the Lewis and Clark County Commissioners for consideration.

PPLT is applying for critical funding for permanent protection of this ranch. Funding through the Lewis & Clark County Open Space Bond will be matched by a generous donation by the landowners. Passed by Lewis and Clark County residents in 2008, the Open Space program is designed to fund projects that permanently protect the most important and intact habitats, waterways, and agricultural lands characteristic of our unique corner of the state. This work will be increasingly critical as we face growing pressures to develop agricultural land.

Hardly a property could be found that fits the goals of the program so well. The ranch, which steadily extends up from Spokane Creek and Spokane Creek Road consists of grassland and mixed forest foothills, including an elevated bench where the majority of the Potter’s hay production occurs. The property’s northern end has a number of perennial and seasonal springs and drainages that feed into Spokane Creek and dot the landscape with small wetlands and riparian zones. Half a mile of Spokane Creek runs across the southwest corner of the property. The property is home to elk, mule deer, black bear, mountain lion, antelope, Clark’s nutcrackers, rough-legged hawks, and bald eagles as well as a variety of songbirds, raptors, frogs, bats, and small mammals.
The project is a major viewshed protector too. You can see it while driving east along Highway 12 or down Main Street of East Helena. Combined with the neighboring BLM land donated by the McMaster family almost 15 years ago, around 10,000 acres of contiguous open space and habitat could remain intact with approval of this project. Not only would the project protect more acreage than the last three county projects combined, it would cost the program less than half the combined total of those same projects–leaving considerable funding for future lands projects.

Should the Lewis and Clark County Commissioners provide the necessary funding, the Potter Conservation Easement will be a lasting legacy to our county’s wild and working landscape and provide a daily, visible reminder of the foresight of our community. Stay tuned for more information on how you can help in the coming weeks.
The People’s Pergola—Tenmile Park Throws Shade, in a Good Way
Tenmile Creek Park has seen a dramatic uptick in visits this year as more folks turn to the outdoors for a much needed escape from COVID-19 anxiety. To help escape the hot summer sun as well, PPLT and partners recently added a shade structure to the park. The pergola is positioned in the center of the lower loop near the restrooms, for ease of access from the bridge or parking lot. Large enough to fit two picnic tables, the structure’s “pad” is made of the same crushed granite that make up the trails and allow for wheelchair access. PPLT is working hard to make sure that everyone in our community has the opportunity to get outdoors. We will continue to look for ways to welcome community members of all abilities to our area parks and trail systems.

Projects like these are only made possible through the support of great partners who helped it come to life. Thank you to The Base Camp for their leadership and funding from the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, Mountain Hardwear and support from Girls Thrive.
Growing a Good Thing
Mary Hollow at the PPLT Helm for 5 Years

Five years ago, no one could have predicted the ways PPLT would grow. During Mary’s tenure, PPLT has not only shown leadership in times of challenge (ahem, 2020), the organization has taken on our largest conservation easement land deals, expanded public lands and trail recreational opportunities on Mount Ascension and on Mount Helena, and restored our waterways. But Mary would point to this being the work of our team and this community, and she would also point to the real win: having expanded our growing conservation “tent” which today includes a broader diversity of people -with different backgrounds, abilities, ethnicities, and geographies-through key partnerships.

Mary’s impact on Prickly Pear Land Trust is characterized by growth. PPLT has grown in its partnerships, and its impact, grown in staff and service, grown in the community members served, and of course grown in acres, waters, and habitats protected. And the evidence of what Mary does for the community can be seen everywhere. Her influence can be measured in bird songs along the creek, the wag of a dog’s tail on the South Hills trails, the wide open views of working and conserved land surrounding the valley, the peppering of yellows, purples, and blues in spring flowers, and the smiles of many friends and co-workers. Cheers, Mary!
The Battle for Trail-Cred—Helena takes on Bozeman
Bozeman may have the numbers, but we know that Helena’s got A LOT of heart. This weekend we take on the members of Gallatin Valley Land Trust in a competition to see who really is the preeminent outdoor community. Help Helena win!

Trail users in both cities will be tracking miles June 12-14 . The weekend challenge is part of PPLT’s Don’t Fence Me In Virtual Trail Run and Trail Challenge , and the Summer Trails Challenge GVLT holds every year. The winning land trust will take home bragging rights.

“We think Helena’s South Hills Trail System is the best in the state,” said Mary Hollow, PPLT executive director. “We see a lot of vehicles with Gallatin County plates parked at our trailheads, so it’s no secret with folks from Bozeman, either. We call it the “6 hatch”. We wanted to have some fun with it, and put our pride on the line against them.”

GVLT’s associate director, EJ Porth, wondered, “So, which community loves trails more? Which community is going to put in more miles to take the 2020 crown for Most Trail Loving Town in Montana? Bozeman is ready to take on Helena. Are you in?”

Help Helena and PPLT “beat Bozeman” by joining the challenge and registering on PPLT’s website . The weekend challenge is part of this year’s Don’t Fence Me In Virtual Trail Run and Trail Challenge, which is $30 for adults and free for kids 17 and under, and includes a special-edition t-shirt.
Virtual Wildflower Walk
Though you might still be stuck on Zoom, wildflowers on the South Hills are in full bloom. Join Blake Sexton, PPLT’s Big Sky Watershed Corps Member, on a free virtual wildflower walk over on our Instagram page. The “virtual event” is pinned to PPLT’s Instagram stories and will be regularly updated as more wildflowers begin to bloom throughout spring and summer. This virtual event replaces an annual event put on by PPLT for local kids, and offers helpful information for every trail user. The wildflower walk can be found on Instagram @pricklypearlandtrust.
Going the (Social) Distance -
PPLT Reopening with CDC Flair
After 3 months of working from our kitchens, basements, and living rooms, PPLT staff is excited to get back to the office. On June 15th, we’ll be reopening with a variety of cautions in place. What does this mean to the PPLT faithful? If you are in need of a new map or merch, our team is happy to pack up your order and make a socially distanced hand off. New and more on trend than ever, we have custom Buffs! Sport the South Hills trails and keep your community safe at the same time. Quantities are limited, so claim yours today. Buffs are $20 each. They’re awesome, and if the demand is higher than our supply, we will look into a second order. 
Prickly Pear Land Trust | [email protected] | pricklypearlt.org