BONNER — Just south of Bonner, another chunk of former Plum Creek Timber land will be spared from development, thanks to a couple of conservation organizations.
Bonner Hill — known as “B Hill” because of the letter “B” that graces the slope above the school — is 104 acres of open space that rises up behind the Bonner Elementary School and across Highway 200 from the Bonner Mill industrial site owned by Bonner Property Development. It gets its nickname from
The Nature Conservancy has owned the property since 2007 when TNC and The Trust For Public Land entered into an agreement with Plum Creek Timber Company to purchase all of the remaining Plum Creek lands – about 310,000 acres – in a deal funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund and dubbed “the Montana Legacy Project.”
Meanwhile, TNC was still searching for a conservation-minded organization or individual to buy the small Bonner Hill property but wasn’t having much luck. Still, TNC allowed the public to recreate on the land, much as they have since it was owned and logged by the Anaconda Company.
Then, Steve Nelson, Mike Boehme and Mike Heisey, co-owners of Bonner Property Development, LLC, agreed to buy the property, so TNC put a conservation and public access easement on the hill, which Five Valleys Land Trust agreed to hold. With that, the deal went through.
“Our goal was to continue current and traditional uses of B Hill and to maintain public access and the natural beauty of the mountain,” Nelson said in a release. “B Hill is a recreation area for the entire community.”
While B Hill is a popular local recreation spot, it also has an above-ground water tank that provides a critical firefighting water source for Bonner Mill, Bonner Elementary School, and a portion of the town of Milltown.
B Hill also provides important wildlife connectivity between the Blackfoot, Clark Fork and Missoula valleys with its proximity to other conservation lands, including nearby Milltown State Park. The hill’s Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir intermixed with chokecherry, snowberry, wood’s rose, and other vegetation provides habitat for wildlife including deer, elk, black bear, bighorn sheep, and a variety of resident and migratory birds.
Land trusts can either be a go-between in a conservation land sale, holding property until the purchase money can be raised like TNC did, or land trusts can hold conservation easements, where they’re responsible for monitoring the land to make sure the easement is maintained. For Bonner Hill, Five Valleys Land Trust will do the latter, working with Bonner Property Development to preserve the property for the public.
“We were committed to honoring the property’s community values when we became the temporary stewards of B Hill,” said Chris Bryant, TNC’s Western Montana Land Protection Director. “We were glad to find a landowner in Bonner Property Development who was so willing to keep B Hill a part of the community, and to be working with Five Valleys to ensure perpetual stewardship.”
Contact reporter Laura Lundquist at firstname.lastname@example.org.