FWP makes decision on conservation
easement near Troy

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is recommending that the Fish and Wildlife Commission approve the purchase of a conservation easement on the Wild River Conservation Easement Project in Lincoln County.

As proposed in Alternative B of an environmental assessment (EA), the recommendation would protect approximately 50 acres of important fish and wildlife habitat along the Kootenai River just northwest of Troy.

FWP released a draft EA for public comment from Jan. 29 to Feb. 17. They received 26 public comments. All issues and concerns raised are addressed in their decision notice.

The property is owned by The Vital Ground Foundation​, which has been working over the last several years to purchase this property and protect it from residential development. The project is part of an area identified by biologists as the best linkage corridor for grizzly bears between the Purcell and Cabinet Mountains in the Cabinet-Yaak recovery area. FWP conserved a large portion of this linkage in 2012 with a 28,000-acre conservation easement in the Kootenai Valley. Vital Ground is working to conserve the remaining gaps in this area. This project would continue FWP’s collaborative effort by helping Vital Ground conserve this property and its important riparian and upland habitat.

Vital Ground would continue to own and manage the land while FWP would hold a conservation easement that would preclude future residential or commercial development and ensure the property is managed to benefit fish and wildlife habitat in perpetuity. Public access to the property would be allowed for fishing and bird watching opportunities. The conservation easement would not require Vital Ground to provide hunting access on this property due to the property’s small size and the proximity to U.S. Highway 2 and neighboring residences.

Copies of the decision notice are available at the FWP office, 490 N. Meridian Rd., Kalispell; Montana State Library, 1515 E. 6th Ave., Helena; FWP State Headquarters, 1420 E. 6th Ave., Helena; the FWP website at http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices/decisionNotices/; and available for viewing at local libraries.

For more information, contact Kris Tempel (406-751-4573; ktempel@mt.gov).

Submitted by Stevie Burton


Yaak School wins grant for new

Recognizing that it was only a matter of time until the ancient logs underpinning the Yaak School would deteriorate, the Yaak School Board decided that something needed to be done to keep this structure from failing. Without a Yaak school building, there would be no Yaak School.

The school was erected in 1932 by community residents on a foundation consisting of logs placed on the ground as was the custom then. These logs are now rotting. Additions over the years have provided space for library, computer lab, bathrooms and clerk’s office, but the original structure remains. The teacherage, a small building adjacent to the school was built in 1952 to help attract good teachers to the community, where rental accommodations are hard to find. It too was built on a base of wood beams lying on the ground.

Using taxpayer matching funds, the Yaak School obtained a Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training grant from the USDA. This grant funded a report by the Missoula engineering firm WGM Group, to outline necessary foundation repairs to both structures. The repair estimate was quite high and would require major financing. The school board and staff began to research finance options and were fortunate to learn of a state funded grant program (Delivering Local Assistance) created by the Montana legislature in 2019 to help communities experiencing a decline in resource-based revenues. The grant application was submitted knowing that the odds were long, as there were 191 applicants vying for a piece of the $21.5 million available with $1.5 million available to each county.

The school board, staff and community were delighted to hear on February 18th that they have been awarded a grant for the full amount requested, $555,595. The Yaak school was one of the two grant recipients in Lincoln County. A total of $11,364,652 was awarded to 28 school districts across the state through the Montana Department of Commerce.

Work will begin immediately to prepare a construction bid package, select a contractor, and, if all goes well, begin construction as soon as school breaks for the summer.

WGM Group will help guide the Yaak School through this process.

For more information contact Pam Fuqua, Yaak School Board Chair, at 295-6007, or  Sandy Beder-Miller, Yaak School Board Trustee, 295-7095.

Submitted by Sandy Berder- Miller.

AWANA Grand Prix; Car to honor “Williebee the Balloon Man”

Every year the AWANA Club at Faith Bible Church holds a Grand Prix race.  This is a special event in which club members (clubbers) race small wooden cars crafted themselves with the help of a parent or other adult.

Nationally the first ever AWANA Grand Prix meet took place in 1970.  This event brings family members together and strengthens relationships among the club leadership, parents and clubbers.

For many years the official starter of the race was Lloyd Wagner, “Williebee the Balloon Man.”  Wagner passed away on May 1 of 2019 and he was missed this year at the Grand Prix.  One clubber made their car in memory of Willie B.

There are three categories of racers: Sparks (K-2nd grade), Truth & Training (3rd – 6th grade) and Youth/Adult (these include volunteers, leaders or folks of a Cubbie who are 2-3 years old).

Each category has two heats which involve 6-8 races.  The number of races is based on how many cars are registered for each category.  This year there were 11 Spark racers, seven Truth and Training (T&T) racers and seven Youth/Adult racers.  First, second and third place trophies are awarded for design and speed in each category.

The clubbers with their cars started registering for the race at noon, on Saturday, Feb. 15 at Faith Bible Church, located at 239 Education Way, in Libby.

Once cars are registered they go to the inspection table where they are weighed (no more than five ounces) and their height and width are measured. If they didn’t pass the inspection they go to the repair shop where expert volunteers help them get their car up to specs. If they pass the inspection the car goes to the pit area where they wait to race.

Before the race started three design judges looked over all the entered cars and evaluated the visual aspects of each one. Based on their judging first, second and third place trophies were selected for each category.

While the design judges were busy, Pastor Ed Quillin opened the race with a devotional about “Obeying – the Secret to Winning.” He involved the audience with questions and it got quite lively.  Many smiles and laughs were shared.

The race started at 1 p.m. and whether you rooted for the fastest or the slowest car, the races evoked a loud crowd.  Everyone had a great time.

The first place winners for best design were Kayleigh Desch (Sparks), Lilee Cosgriff (T & T) and Garrett Detrick (Youth/Adult).  The first place winners for speed were Kayleigh Desch (Sparks), Lilee Cosgriff (T & T) and Nick Peterson (Youth/Adult).

After the award ceremony everyone enjoyed cookies while some ‘grudge match’ races took place.