Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Gallatin Valley Land Trust RCPP Renewed

Good news for Gallatin Valley conservation: The NRCS announced last week that Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program project (RCPP) has been renewed and funded with $3.8 million. Funds will be allocated toward cooperative conservation easement projects and other conservation and stewardship measures in the Gallatin area. The majority of funds will go directly to farmers and ranchers to complete conservation projects on their properties.

Gallatin Valley Land Trust had been the first land trust in Montana to receive RCPP approval back in 2015, when the national program was launched. GVLT and 17 partners received $3.8 million in funding to acquire seven conservation easements totaling over 2,600 acres. The funding also allowed GVLT and its partners to complete six land stewardship projects with landowners and the NRCS. The 2014 first RCPP allocation to GVLT produced $21 million in total conservation value, providing a 5 to 1 match of federal funds.

RCPP was a new program in the 2014 Farm Bill, and was modified and included with the 2018 Farm Bill, and language within the 2018 Farm Bill allowed existing RCPP partners like GVLT to renew their existing proposal. GVLT learned last week its renewal had been approved. “At a time when the Gallatin Valley is facing unprecedented growth, this special allocation of funds will increase the pace of conservation in the Valley” according to Brendan Weiner, GVLT Program Director. “Thank you to the NRCS for strategically allocating these funds to a place that is committed to conserving its agricultural heritage and has a proven record of conservation success.”

 “This focused partnership project has brought together the resources to conserve more open space and address resource concerns on more acres in the Gallatin Valley than either group could have done individually,” said Tom Watson, NRCS State Conservationist for Montana.


Bill and Dana Milton Receive 2019 Montana Leopold Conservation Award

Congrats to Bill and Dana Milton at the Milton Ranch near Roundup for receiving the Montana 2019 Leopold Conservation Award. The award was announced this week at the Montana Farm Bureau convention. The Montana Land Reliance and the Milton Ranch partnered several years ago to create a conservation easement on the property. The Miltons are richly deserving of this award. MALT had an opportunity to be a part of the Milton Ranch tour earlier last summer.

New Video Shows Helena Trails “Unite Us”

A new YouTube video with the message “our trails unite us” features three different types of Helena trail users on the Mount Helena Trail System who eventually converge at Mount Ascension with an overlook of the Helena Valley. Prickly Pear Land Trust is the community leader in the expansion and maintenance of the local trails system.

The Helena Independent Record reports the video was conceived and created by avid trail user John Doran and a company called SOVRN Creative to “bridge a divide that’s grown” among trail runners, trail hikers and mountain bikers.

In the video (1:41 in length) all three trail users depart from the same parking lot at about the same time, enjoy their trail experience, and by happenstance meet up on Mount Ascension. No words are spoken in the video. The city of Helena is working on an update of its Open Lands Recreation Plan.

RMEF Allocates Over $1 Million in 2019 Elk Research

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently announced it has awarded more than $1 million in 2019 to advance elk-related research and that the allocation has leveraged an additional $6.3 million in funding from partners.

From the RMEF website: “Our mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage would ring rather hollow without the constant infusion of up-to-date scientific research,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. 

So far in 2019, RMEF provided funding for 33 different research projects in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. There are also three projects of national benefit.

“It is imperative that we continue to work with partners on many fronts and in different locations, as we have for years, to gather all the quantified knowledge that we can about issues impacting elk and elk habitat,” added Henning.

Survey: Montanans Support State Funding for Conservation, Outdoor Recreation

The Montana Outdoor Heritage Project (MOHP) released a report last week indicating that 83 percent of the people who responded to MOHP surveys support additional public funding in support of conservation and outdoor recreation.

 The survey was not conducted as a random poll survey. Surveys were available online at the MOHP website and distributed at over 50 community meetings and individual discussions and meetings. A 12-page report based on the survey responses is available on the MOHP website.

Sherrill, Pruitt, Hunter Win City Council Seats

Three people with land trust connections won election to city councils on Nov. 5. Amber Sherrill, former executive director and former board member at Five Valleys Land Trust, won a Ward 4 seat in Missoula with 63% of the vote. Ryan Hunter, land protection specialist with Flathead Land Trust, won a Ward 3 city election in Kalispell with 59% of the vote. Robin Pruitt, a former staffer and board member for Bitter Root Land Trust, won a Ward 1 council election in Hamilton with 68% of the vote. Congratulations to all three.

Vital Ground Helps Tell Story of Forest Legacy Program

Vital Ground has completed a new website — in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service — that contains an interactive Story Map website featuring species in the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern and Intermountain Regions. The separate website, which complements, helps convey to the public the benefits of the Forest Legacy Program while using stories, images, maps and pop-ups to feature the grizzly, Canada lynx, bull trout, whitebark pine and other sensitive species. Feature articles show the importance of wildlife-habitat conservation while sidebars depict economic benefits of conservation to communities like Whitefish and Seeley Lake.

Montana Land Reliance Book Launch Set for Nov. 5-6

“A Million Acres” is the title of the book anthology saluting the voluntary private land conservation success of The Montana Land Reliance, and “A Million Acres” will officially debut with two book launch gatherings and readings on Nov. 5 in Missoula and Nov. 6 in Helena. The event in Missoula takes place at Fact and Fiction Books at 7:00 PM and in Helena the event is at Gulch Distillers starting at 6:00 PM.