The Don Aldrich Award

Land Lindbergh - 1999

Land Lindbergh
Land Lindbergh

From the day he arrived in the Blackfoot River Valley in the 1960s, Land distinguished himself as a persuasive advocate for clean water, open space, and wildlife. He stepped forward with enthusiasm, never knowing if others would join, but they always did.

Along with neighbor Bill Potter, in 1973 Land approached Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to adopt a private-land access agreement to allow the public free, walk-in access to hunt on and across the family ranch. The deal was the forerunner of Montana’s unique Block Management Program, established 12 years later.

In 1975, Land partnered with federal and state agencies, private timber corporations, the University of Montana, and other private landowners in creating a unique private-land access agreement. The collaboration—headed up by his close friend and confidant, Hank Goetz—formally resulted in the Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor being established in 2015. This opened 26 miles of free riverbank passage by creating access points on adjacent lands and allowing the public to walk 50 feet above the river’s high-water mark on private ownerships. A popular river access site was developed on the Lindbergh property, along with a “oat-in campsite for overnight use.

In 1977, Land and his wife, Susie Miller, secured one of Montana’s earliest conservation easements – a then obscure means of land protection. Working closely with friends Bob Knight and Joe McDowell, they managed to accomplish what is thought to be one of the first times a Montana landowner willingly gave up the right to subdivide for development.

By 1990, state fisheries studies revealed that toxic mining wastes and degraded spawning runs caused wild trout numbers in the Blackfoot River to plummet. To help reverse the damage, the Big Blackfoot Chapter of Trout Unlimited was born in Lincoln, and Land was a charter member.

The ’90s brought additional threats to the Blackfoot, but none more than the looming loss of its agricultural character as family ranches faced being sold and split up. Once more, Land stepped forward to serve as the first chairman of the Blackfoot Challenge, formed to address problems affecting landowners and recreationists in the Blackfoot River Valley. “With the influx of new ideas and people, coupled with the different agendas of all the agencies, it was time to get in front of our potential issues and deal with them,” says Land via the Blackfoot Challenge website. “Here in the Blackfoot, it all starts and ends with the river,” Land wrote some years ago. “It’s a river that’s very alive, very powerful. It sustains everything in this valley and everything in the valley flows back into it; the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you listen carefully, the river will always tell you how you’re doing.”

By Tom Palmer, Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame

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