Helena, Prickly Pear Land Trust looking at new land acquisition near LeGrande Cannon Trail

Posted at 8:20 PM, Jul 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-06 22:20:07-04

The city of Helena could acquire another piece of property in the South Hills, adjacent to the land it added last year near the LeGrande Cannon Trail.

Prickly Pear Land Trust is working with the city to secure the 54-acre parcel. PPLT would purchase the land, then donate it to the city. The Helena City Commission will hear an initial presentation about the possible acquisition at Wednesday’s administrative meeting.

The land includes forested ridges west of Mount Helena. The parcel is bounded on three sides by existing city open lands, state trust lands and the U.S. Forest Service.

City leaders say acquiring the land would help them meet some of their goals.

“This is a piece that will provide us the ability to do some fuels, some wildfire reduction treatment around residences,” said Kristi Ponozzo, director of Helena Parks, Recreation and Open Lands. “It also helps connect public lands.”

Last year, PPLT and the city concluded a similar deal to purchase and transfer 74 acres along LeGrande Cannon. Ponozzo said city crews have completed about 75% of planned fuel mitigation and weed reduction work on that land.

PPLT director Mary Hollow said her organization had been looking at this parcel for some time, but it only became realistic to move forward with acquiring it after they secured the adjacent property.

Hollow said this property is important because of its location – near the city and other recreational areas – and what it offers.

“In the midst of the COVID pandemic, I think any public lands that are available to the public for outdoor recreation and mental health and well-being are going to be immensely beneficial to everyone, and more and more valuable,” she said.

Hollow said some of the funding for the proposed purchase would come through a partnership with the Montana National Guard and the U.S. Department of Defense. Those agencies have supported preservation programs in the area to protect flight paths around Fort Harrison.