Over 50 years of farming in the Flathead, Richard and Grace Blanchet witnessed the rapid loss of farmland in the Flathead Valley. In 2005 and 2006, the siblings donated conservation easements on their adjacent farms, a total of 320 acres along the Flathead River south of Columbia Falls, to protect the agricultural and open space values of their land for future generations. (Richard and Grace Blanchet, photo courtesy of Montana Land Reliance)
Last year, the Blanchet siblings went even further by gifting the property to the Montana Land Reliance on their will. The proceeds raised by selling the conservation property will allow the land trust to protect more farm land in the Flathead Valley.
Recently, the Montana Land Reliance submitted an application for a federal grant on behalf of a landowner along the Flathead River in Creston. If the grant is approved, the Blanchet’s gift will be used, together with the federal grant, to purchase a conservation easement on over 700 acres of prime agricultural soils. Purchased conservation easements are used to compensated landowners for restricting development on their land and conserving specific land values like productive soils for farming.
“The valley is losing farmland at an unsustainable rate and once it’s gone, it’s gone,” said Mark Schiltz, the Western manager for the Montana Land Reliance. Whenever conservation groups secure grants, a large portion of the funding is invested and redistributed through our local economy. Most important, these lands are critical natural assets for future generations.