Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Key 2023 Farm Bill Issues Starting to Take Shape

      The 2023 Farm Bill may seem like it’s far into the future, but the Land Trust Alliance is leading an effort right now to identify and galvanize land trust consensus on a range of potential issues associated with 2023 Farm Bill provisions.

     Even as the Alliance, the Partnership of Rangeland Trusts, and others are currently working behind the scenes to possibly secure additional ACEP/ALE funding within a much-discussed congressional infrastructure package, work continues between the Alliance and land trust leaders, congressional staff, key Members of Congress and others on important provisions within the 2023 Farm Bill.

     The Alliance’s policy director, Lori Faeth, led a national land trust call on July 22 that highlighted some of the major goals and ongoing issues associated with Farm Bill reauthorization. 

      Among the goals: 

      * Ensure ACEP/ALE is properly funded

      * Create a new program to conserve forestlands

      * Ensure program flexibility for land trusts and landowners

      * Maintain strong and flexible RCPP

      * Greater access to ACEP in underserved communities and disadvantaged landowners 

      * Possible elimination of AGI requirements  

      * Refine buy-protect-sell language 

      * Ensure ALE Plan is not reestablished 

      * Clarify language about certified entities 

      The 2023 Farm Bill is a work in progress, but progress is being made and most of the Alliance Farm Bill goals align themselves closely with MALT Farm Bill goals. MALT’s top 2023 Farm Bill priority is additional ACEP / ALE funding. Right now, for FY21, Montana’s ALE funding allocation is about $20 million short of full funding for qualified projects. The NRCS has thankfully worked—and continues to work—to address that shortfall. But the national need for additional ACEP / ALE funding is chronic, and the 2023 Farm Bill is an ideal place to address that issue. 

MALT is Hiring! Search Begins for New Executive Director

by Glenn Marx, MALT Executive Director

     It’s officially official: The MALT board of directors has finalized the MALT executive director job description, and an active search for MALT’s next executive director is now underway. I’ll be retiring within a March 2022 timeframe and someone new, with new ideas and new energy, will serve the land trust community as MALT executive director.

     I’ve had the honor, and the good fortune, to have this job since 2006, after I’d interviewed with a MALT hiring committee consisting of (at the time) Bill Long, MLR; Andy Baur, PPLT; Wendy Ninteman, FVLT; and Paul Sihler, HOTR. I was hired under an informal two-year agreement that was never formalized. As long as MALT kept paying me I kept showing up for work, and here we are, 15 years later. I’ll be riding off into the sunset and MALT will have a terrific opportunity to work with a new executive director on a new vision, and new creative ways to serve the MALT membership with new and perhaps more youthful enthusiasm.

The position is now listed on MALT’s website.

Good Things Happening for Flathead Land Trust

      Great things are going on in the Montana land trust community. For example, take a look at Flathead Land Trust: FLT’s major summer fundraising event is coming up live and in-person on August 19, FLT is a participant in the popular Great Fish Community Challenge, a major FLT partnership effort—Bad Rock Canyon Conservation Project—recently received a $15,000 donation from the Whitefish Community Foundation, FLT just led a successful tour of its Stillwater Conservation Easement project and its Somers Beach project is progressing. 


     “We are so excited and grateful to the Whitefish Community Foundation for this grant,” Flathead Land Trust executive director Paul Travis said in a Flathead Beacon article. “The proposed Bad Rock Canyon Wildlife Management Area will protect a critical piece of wildlife habitat along the Flathead River and secure  public access to a wild place right on the doorstep of Columbia Falls.”

     A total of 61 Flathead area nonprofits were selected by the Whitefish Community Foundation for the Great Fish Community Challenge. The event features an August 5 launch party. Since 2015, the Great Fish Community Challenge has raised more than $13 million for more than 70 local nonprofit organizations. In addition to awarding a percentage match on the first $20,000 raised by each organization, the Whitefish Community Foundation awards thousands of dollars in incentive grants throughout the campaign.

     FLT is also hosting The Land Affair, the land trust’s annual summer fundraising event, at 6:00 PM on August 19. The event will be held at the Snowline Acres Ashley Creek Venue and features reggae music, locally-sourced appetizers, local beer and wine, all culminated with a live paddle raise.  

     A Kalispell Daily Inter Lake reporter joined FLT for a tour of its 1,100-acre Stillwater Conservation Easement, a collaborative project involving The Trust for Public Land, Stoltze Land & Lumber, and a previous conservation-minded  landowner on forested land about 18 miles north of Whitefish. 

     “It’s one of the last pieces of private land in that area,” FLT’s Paul Travis said at the time the deal was closed. “The conservation easement protects open space, public access and wildlife habitat while also allowing for sustainable timber management.”

Photo: Stillwater tour.

Five Valleys Land Trust Opens New Dean Stone Trail

Five Valleys Land Trust is very pleased to report it has opened a new trail on Mount Dean Stone. From the Five Valleys website: The City of Missoula, Five Valleys and the Mount Dean Stone Committee partners are excited to announce that the nicknamed High, Wide and Handsome Trail on Mount Dean Stone is now open to the public! This milestone is the culmination of years of listening to community needs and working with private landowners, neighbors, the City of Missoula, and the Mount Dean Stone Committee to help create Missoula’s newest trail corridor and open space vista.

The Nature Conservancy in MT Works Toward Thriving Forests

     The Nature Conservancy in Montana added some helpful updated information on its website about the importance of forest management, and forest use by recreationists, with links to other current forest management information.

     Montana TNC is a major forest landowner in western Montana, and an advisory on TNC’s website reads: This summer we expect to see huge numbers of people enjoying Montana’s outdoors, including visits to our TNC lands. With so many of us out there, please remember to douse your campfires, pack out trash, stay on marked trails and leave no trace that you were there. Folks accessing TNC’s lands are also encouraged to review TNC’s Forest Lands – Open Lands Policy. 

     That’s wise advice, given the number of wildfires burning in Montana, and the high percentage of them that have been human-caused. 

     TNC’s Summer 2021 Montana Forest Newsletter is full of interesting information about ongoing TNC forest management actions. Topics such as biochar, recreating responsibly, a design sprint assessment of 40,000 acres nearly Seeley Lake, a 2021 update on TNC goals for forest land transfers, a report on local land transactions in 2020, and land management partnerships to help restore camas to TNC forestlands.

Dave Hanna / TNC Photo Blackfoot / Clearwater

Gallatin Valley Land Trust Part of Outside Kind Campaign

       Ten outdoor recreation groups working in the Gallatin County area and beyond — including Gallatin Valley Land Trust— have teamed up to launch “Outside Kind”, a campaign designed to “share best practices, principles and tips for enjoying the outdoors together.” 

     The effort reflects the growing awareness from several outdoor recreation and nature organizations that community and nature trails are seeing increased use and in some cases increasing conflicts. 

     “For years, and particularly in the last year and half, we’ve seen growing pressure on the trails throughout our region. This alliance reminds us that through kindness and respect for one-another, we can all enjoy our shared outdoor spaces, regardless of whether we like to hike, run or bike the trails,” says Chet Work, executive director at the Gallatin Valley Land Trust. 

     The primary goal of Outside Kind is to share best practices, principles and tips for enjoying the outdoors together. Whether you wish to encourage your friends and family or visiting guests to hike kind, ride kind, ski kind, wag kind, etc., Outside Kind offers the community consistent and clear guidelines around outdoor activities and positive local ethics. 

27,000 Acres of Additional Conservation Proposed for NW Montana Forests

       The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Stimson Lumber Company — with key project support from The Trust for Public Land — is proposing a 27,000-acre conservation easement on forestlands held by Stimson through the Phase II Kootenai Forestland Conservation Project near Libby.  

     The proposed project is in FWP’s public review process, with a public hearing  set for Libby the evening of July 14.

     The project would produce many benefits, including sustainable forest management, public access and recreation, wildlife habitat conservation, wood products industry jobs retention and more.

     From the Flathead Beacon article: 

     “Completion of this project would build on the success of the nearby Forest Legacy Program-funded 142,000-acre Thompson-Fisher Conservation Easement, the 28,000-acre Kootenai Valleys Conservation Easement, and the 22,295-acre Kootenai Forestlands Phase I Conservation Easement, which was the first phase of this project,” according to a press release from FWP. “Forest Legacy projects in Montana and Idaho have cumulatively helped to conserve over 300,000 acres of working forestlands that remain in private ownership while securing permanent public access and habitat conservation.” 


MALT Will Celebrate National Forest Week

The Montana Association of Land Trusts will be celebrating National Forest Week during the next five days. Forest health is incredibly important to Montana’s economic strength, recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat and much more.


MLR’s Kendall Van Dyk Talks Conservation on MT PBS’ Montana Ag Live Series

      Conservation easements were the main topic, and Kendall Van Dyk of the Montana Land Reliance was the main guest, on a recent episode of the Montana Ag Live show on Montana PBS. 

      Professor emeritus Jack Riesselman of Montana State University served as host of the show, and other panelists in addition to Van Dyk were Mary Burrows, MSU Extension Plant Pathologist; Dan Bigelow, MSU Extension Resource Agricultural Economist; and Mac Burgess, with MSU’s Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology department. The show featured opportunities for call-in questions and Van Dyk fielded the most questions, with conservation easement topics including perpetuity, conservation easement terms and restrictions, purpose of conservation easements, landowner motivations for easement creation, federal and state easement programs and more. 

Screenshot: Riesselman (left) and Van Dyk