Race against development 

Grant Kier is no stranger to tough challenges. Until recently, the new director of the Five Valleys Land Trust was struggling to qualify for the 2008 Olympics. Although he succeeded as the U.S. Amateur National Mountain Biking Champion in 2006, he didn’t make the cut for the Olympics, and after a short stint as a professional racer, Kier says he realized he had to choose between pursuing a career as a biker or a conservationist. He picked the latter, and Missoulians for generations to come will hopefully appreciate his decision. Now he’ll apply an athlete’s relentless discipline and drive to conserving open lands in western Montana.

Kier says the next 10 years hold enormous potential for both the Missoula region and for the Five Valleys Land Trust, an organization that’s long been at the fore of local efforts to protect open spaces, wildlife habitat and agricultural lands from development. Having worked as the director of the Bitter Root Land Trust since 2005, Kier says he’s thrilled to take on the challenge of preserving open space on a larger scale, and feels well prepared for the challenge.

It’s particularly rewarding to join the organization at a time when local support for open space seems strong, Kier says. Both Missoula and Ravalli counties passed open space bonds last year, and some of the money has already been put to use. On Nov. 26 the Missoula City Council approved the purchase of conservation easements on 1,000 acres in the South Hills.

Kier, who was raised in Colorado and worked as a consulting geologist before coming to Montana three years ago, says protection of agricultural land and river systems that provide clean water, animal habitat and economic benefits will be his top priority.

“We are at a tipping point, not only for growth but also for conservation,” Kier says. “If we make the right decisions, we can really impact the future positively, and if not, we’ll have regrets.”
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