Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Land Donated to RMEF Protects 3,450 Acres of Montana Wildlife Habitat

A generous gift: Conservation-minded landowner John Greytak has donated 3,450 acres of critical elk, mule deer and whitetail deer winter range near the Bearmouth area in western Montana to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Watch a video and read more about the donation here.

“We are grateful to John Greytak for this extremely generous and substantial donation,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “We commend John for recognizing the crucial wildlife values of this land while making the decision to permanently protect them. He’s been a RMEF member since 1999 and recently elevated his commitment to conservation by becoming a RMEF life member and joining RMEF’s Legacy Lands Program.”

Located just north of Interstate 90 in the Bearmouth area of Granite County, the property is about 45 miles east of RMEF headquarters in Missoula. It lies within a vast landscape of various public and protected land ownership and provides important connectivity of wildlife habitat.

“I know what the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation does is like-minded to my passion. In fact, I’d say their passion kind of spawned my passion,” said Greytak. “It’s a win for me. It’s a win for RMEF. And in the long run it will be a win for the general public and the wildlife so I’m happy to have done it.”

GVLT’s Penelope Pierce Goodbye Party is Set for Feb. 13

Feb. 13 will informally end one chapter of Penelope Pierce’s life – as executive director of Gallatin Valley Land Trust – and open up untold new chapters as she turns the reins of GVLT over into new hands.

Penelope, who after ten years at GVLT announced her intentions to “retire” from GVLT, will be feted on Feb. 13 at the GVLT Annual Trail Mix gathering. The event starts at 6:00 PM in the Baxter Hotel Ballroom. The invitation reads: “You’re invited to the 26th Annual GVLT Trail Mix and Penelope’s going away party.” RSVP are requested by Feb. 10 to or by calling 406-587-8404 ext. 113.

Penelope will work during a brief transitional period at GVLT to assist the new executive director.

Montana Land Reliance Agriculture Forum Draws a Crowd

The 2020 GreaterYellowstone Agriculture Forum attracted a broad audience of area ranchers and others who learned about cloud seeding and drought and water management, along with other topics associated with drier and warmer weather. The theme of the forum was “Stormy Weather – The Road Ahead in a Changing Landscape.”

The Montana Land Reliance has produced the forum the past five years, with an eye toward providing current and helpful information to the agriculture community. Speakers at the Feb. 6 forum (held in Three Forks at the Gathering Pace in the Lewis & Clark Motel) included MSU Professor Bruce Maxwell, rancher Jim Hagenbarth of Dillon, and Krista Lee Evans, a noted water rights expert. Photo of Montana Land Reliance staff participants at the Greater Yellowstone Agriculture Forum included (left to right) Jordan Vana, Kim Cook, Kathryn Kelly, Becky Stearns, Andrea Darling and Brad Hansen (Tom Mallon photo)

Andrew Dana is New Member of Land Trust Accreditation Commission

Andrew Dana, a long-time conservation attorney at Conservation Law Associates in Bozeman, is the newest commissioner at the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.  Andy’s commission appointment was activated in January and he recently participated in his first commission meeting.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission was incorporated in April 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance to operate an innovative program to build and recognize strong land trusts, foster public confidence in land conservation and help ensure the long-term protection of land. Land trusts apply for accreditation and applicants undergo a lengthy, comprehensive and rigorous review process through all phases of the land trust organization to earn the seal of accreditation.

Here’s the short introduction of Andy on the commission’s website: Andrew Dana is an attorney with Conservation Law Associates in Bozeman, Montana, and represents land trusts, primarily in Montana and the Northern Rockies, including the Montana Association of Land Trusts. He has consulted nationally with the Land Trust Alliance and other organizations about a broad range of conservation easement matters, including easement transactions, drafting, interpretation, enforcement, amendment and termination, and tax policy. Andy was a founding member of the Land Trust Alliance’s Conservation Defense Advisory Council, and he helped launch the coordinated conservation easement defense insurance ideas that ultimately gave rise to TerraFirma. He received his law degree from Stanford Law School, and also holds degrees in geography from the University of Washington and Middlebury College. With his brothers, he also owns a working ranch on the Yellowstone River that is protected by a conservation easement, which fortunately allows fly fishing.

Congratulations to Andy, and thank you for your service to land conservation.


Bitter Root Land Trust Conservation Easement “Celebrates Four Generations”

From an article in the Ravalli Republic about the Gates family celebrating a conservation on their 160-acre farm:

It would be hard to imagine that Sam Gates could be much happier as he sat at the head of the kitchen table in the home where his family has gathered for generations.

“There are just so many memories wrapped up in this place,” Gates said. “All of these things that have tied us together as a family are right here in this place that we grew up.”

The 160 acres of prime farmland that comprise the easement are located just west of the Lone Rock School.

“All of us here at the Land Trust are so honored to have had the opportunity to work with Sam and the entire Gates family to conserve their farm,” said Bitter Root Land Trust Executive Director Gavin Ricklefs. “The Gates family’s deep connection to this land is evident whenever they talk about their lives growing up here along Three Mile Creek, and we’re happy to be able to provide this tool that gives local landowners like the Gates an option for ensuring their family lands are part of the valley’s agricultural future.”

“Right from the very first time that we started talking about it, everyone was board,” Gates said. “I think my dad is smiling down at us right now and I think mom would be too now that we’ve completed the process. … It’s a wonderful thing when you know that you can always go home.”


Leopold Award Deadline March 15

The official invitation to nominate someone for the Leopold Conservation Award is pretty simple: If you, or someone you know, is a Montana landowner who is committed to land management practices that increase conservation, we invite your application for the Leopold Conservation Award.

Land trusts were thrilled when Bill and Dana Milton (pictured here), with close land trust ties and extensive private land conservation experience, received the 2019 Leopold Award.

More information about the 2020 award is available at the Sand County Foundation website.

Vital Ground Video Features Images of Diverse Project Benefits

A new 35-second video from The Vital Ground Foundation showcases, in a stunning series of images, the range of benefits produced by a Vital Ground conservation project. The short video is titled “Vital Ground — Connecting Vital Habitat for Wildlife and People.” The video ends with these words on screen: WE PROTECT LANDSCAPES FOR WILDLIFE AND PEOPLE.

The unnarrated video highlights the benefits of Vital Ground projects for clean water, fresh air, vast landscapes, and iconic wildlife.

The video was released on Jan. 28. For additional Vital Ground videos, including a 57-second video titled “The Grizzly Bear as an Umbrella Species,” visit the Vital Ground website.