Bill Northey, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, is in Montana this week and on Sunday evening, July 12, Montana State Conservationist Tom Watson arranged an opportunity for MALT and Bitter Root Land Trust to visit with the under secretary. Gavin Ricklefs, executive director of Bitter Root Land Trust and MALT board president, and MALT executive director Glenn Marx joined Watson, Northey and USDA staffer Josh Storey for dinner in Missoula.
The under secretary asked about the history behind Montana’s land trust community and the state’s conservation easement statute, and about the focus and mission of individual Montana land trusts as well the collective focus of the state land trust association. Northey and Watson were headed to the Blackfoot Valley on July 13, where they will have a chance to learn more about Montana land conservation.
The dinner conversation touched on a multitude of topics: The flexibility and landowner incentives within the 2018 Farm Bill, the work of Gallatin Valley Land Trust and now Bitter Root Land Trust within the NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the value of the Montana ALE Program Coordinator position, the importance of funding by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for not only the ALE Coordinator position but for Northern Great Plains grassland conservation efforts, the success of the Montana ALE Program, and the strength of the partnership between the Montana NRCS and the Montana land trust community. The group also discussed food security and food distribution, and the challenges associated with farm and ranch succession planning and invigorating US agriculture with a new generation of producers.
MALT thanks Northey and Watson for taking time from busy schedules to meet with land trusts.
Photo: (left to right) Glenn Marx, MALT; USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey; Gavin Ricklefs, Bitter Root Land Trust; Tom Watson, Montana NRCS State Conservationist. Photo by Josh Storey