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Technical and Financial Assistance for Landowners

River to Lake partners and landowners work together to navigate through the many public and private funding options available to rural landowners.  Organization and agency partners help landowners select appropriate programs and leverage multiple funding sources to maximize the benefits for landowners and conservation results.

Conservation Easements

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement negotiated between a landowner and a land trust that protects conservation values, such as wildlife habitat and working farmlands, and limits the landowner’s ability to develop the land.  It essentially establishes the landowner’s commitment for retaining his or her property as open lands in perpetuity.

The land must have important open space, wildlife, water quality, agricultural, wetland, forest or riparian values to qualify for a conservation easement.

A landowner who donates a conservation easement on his or her property may qualify for a charitable donation federal tax deduction of the appraised value of the donated easement.  Working farms & ranches, even those operated by tenants, may qualify to deduct 100% of their federal tax bill, which is essentially a tax credit.

Hazel and Glenn Johnston own 700 acres along the Flathead River that will be permanently protected.  – Chris Peterson photo

A conservation easement donation may be used as match toward a federal grant to purchase development rights on other properties, thereby leveraging additional funding for conservation.

Conservation easements can be completed in four to six months, but may take longer depending on the complexity of a project and whether it is a donated or purchased easement.  When funding from government programs and grants are involved it may take one to two years for the project to be completed.  Landowners are advised to work with a well-informed accountant or legal representative to determine their specific needs.

Glenn Johnston clearly remembers once being advised not to fall in love with the land, for it would interfere with his business decisions.

“Over the years I have thought about that” he said. Johnston eventually came to a different conclusion: “What better thing is there to fall in love with?”

Read our Conservation Easements and You Handout.

For more information and to explore available land conservation options, please visit Montana Association of Land Trusts, or contact one of our land trusts partners: the Flathead Land Trust  or the Montana Land Reliance.

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