Unfettered recreation access will continue at a popular lake near Troy after conservation organizations and the local community wrapped up a $1.5 million effort to purchase a lakeshore property late last year.
Alvord Lake in the Kootenai National Forest is about a four-mile drive from Troy. It’s a popular recreation destination for the community that also serves as an important winter habitat for a variety of wildlife, said Ryan Lutey, executive director for Vital Ground, a Missoula-based land conservation group.
“The lake itself is a nice warm-water fishery. ... It’s not trout fishing, but it’s great for ice fishing and panfishing,” he said, adding that nearby amenities include a boat launch, floating dock, picnic area and outdoor classroom maintained by the forest. “The Forest Service has made a lot of investments on Alvord Lake, and it kind of completes the vision for the lake as a community resources.”
In 2003, Gary and Kathy Jones learned of a proposed development on the 142-acre parcel of private land that stretches along about a third of a mile on the lake’s southwest shore.
To keep the prized recreation area open to the public, they temporarily purchased the land and began Friends of Alvord Lake, which for the past 12 years worked with local partners to find funding for the property.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks also became interested in the project, on which hunting and fishing opportunities will continue to be open to the public.
In addition to deer and elk winter range on nearby south-facing slopes, the area provides habitat for moose, fisher, Canada lynx and bears.
Alvord Lake is also prime habitat for common loons, and Lutey said a longtime resident pair of the waterfowl have produced young that have populated several other lakes in the region.
Funding for the project included a $400,000 Community Forest and Open Spaces Program grant from the Forest Service. That money comes from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was reauthorized for the next three years when Congress passed an omnibus funding bill last year.
The Libby Chapter of the Society of American Foresters helped with the grant-writing process, drafting a 70-page forest management plan to allow limited logging activities and other vegetation management to continue at the site.
The Forest Service awarded the grant in 2014, and additional funding came from a partial donation of the property’s value by the Joneses, a $100,000 grant from the state Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Trust and money from local donors.
Lutey thanked U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., for his work to reauthorize the conservation fund after it expired earlier last year.
“With the project hinging on the federal funding component, we requested support pretty broadly in 2013 and 2014,” he said. “It’s important to have a senator so focused that the intent of that program is applied to its intended purposes every year.”
The site also boasts a popular hiking and biking trail that encircles the lake. Lutey said it would have been cut off had the property been developed.
To get to Alvord Lake, use River Road, which parallels U.S. 2 on the opposite side of the Kootenai River from Troy. Drive northwest, take a right on Kilbrennan Lake Road, then follow Forest Road 460.
Reporter Sam Wilson can be reached at 758-4407 or by email at email@example.com.