Interior Secretary Deb Haaland celebrates new conservation area in Montana

Kiana Wilson

MARION — Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited Marion on Saturday to celebrate the Lost Trail Conservation Area, which becomes the newest unit of the National Wildlife Refuge system.

“Today we not only celebrate the expansion of our National Wildlife Refuge System. We celebrate new opportunities for children and families to connect with nature, hunt, hike, fish and view wildlife now and for generations to come,” Haaland said.

The Lost Trail Conservation Area became the first unit of the National Wildlife Refuge system under his administration.

“The opening of Lost Trail Conservation Area, the latest unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System, is a great example of what my Great American Outdoors Act can do for public access to public lands,” Sen. Steve Daines said in a statement. “From now on, generations of Montanese will be able to enjoy this magnificent landscape.”

Haaland praised the collaboration that resulted in the creation of the conservation area.

“The work here is a shining example of collaborative curation. When federal, state and tribal governments and local residents come together to conserve and protect our lands and waters,” Haaland said.

Alongside the Secretary of the Interior, members of the US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS), Trust for Public Lands, and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) gathered to share their thoughts on the importance of this new protected area.

“Together, we have preserved a vital wildlife corridor. We preserve the habitat of our flora and fauna, and we preserve the way of life of this region through sustainable land use and outdoor recreation. And we do it together,” said USFWS Director Martha Williams.

The region connects Glacier National Park, the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, the Selkirk Mountains, and even reaches the Coeur d’Alene Mountains in Idaho. It is the main migration corridor for elk, mule deer, grizzly bear, wolverine and Canada lynx.

“The permanent protection of 38,000 acres of pristine Montana forests and wildlife in the Lost Trail Conservation Area is great news for anyone who enjoys the outdoors and for future generations,” said Malcolm Carson, senior vice president. and General Counsel of Trust for Public Land.

Historically, the land was used for livestock production, but has been reclaimed as a refuge for wetland wildlife.

“We all saw value here and we all tried to argue, whoever needed to hear it, that this was a place that could use protection and conservation and the designation of this as a conservation area. We are proud to be part of this story of restoring and conserving this specific site for a variety of species in perpetuity,” said CSKT Wildlife Management Program Biologist Whisper Camel-Means.

The Missoula Current contributed to this story.

Betty K. Park