When it comes to postcard-like Montana landscapes, the Potomac Valley has it all: family farms and ranches, quiet creeks flowing into the iconic Blackfoot River, and all of it surrounded by the wilds of the Garnet and Rattlesnake mountain ranges. Thanks to landowner Virginia Hayes-Murphy and her cousin and current Five Valleys easement holder, Anna Marie Hayes-Harrison, nearly 600 acres of this picturesque valley will be protected in perpetuity.
In 2004, Anna Marie and Five Valleys placed a conservation easement on 380 acres of her family’s historic Hayes Ranch. This summer, Virginia sold her property to Anna Marie, who placed a conservation easement on it. Anna Marie’s new Hayes-Harrison-Potomac conservation easement will help preserve her family’s ranching legacy and protect the farm and ranchland, wildlife habitat, and scenic views her family has cherished for generations.
Anna Marie manages the property for livestock and hay production. She runs herds of horses, cattle, and sheep, and also harvests timber from the property’s Douglas-fir and Ponderosa pine stands. Ninety-four percent of the property includes locally and statewide important agricultural soils, as identified by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
The property’s pastures and forests, and 16 acres of wetlands, also provide important habitat for elk, deer, black bears, turkeys, and numerous smaller birds and mammals. The property borders other Five Valleys conservation easements, which ensures habitat connectivity for a host of species, from grizzlies and bobcats to sandhill cranes. Travelers of Highway 200 are treated to this scenic panorama as they pass through the valley.
Funding for the project was made possible through the NRCS’ Agricultural Land Easement Program, the Missoula County Open Space Bond Program, and a donation from Anna Marie. With the help of the Hayes family, Five Valleys is proud to have protected over 2,800 acres of the Potomac Valley to date, ensuring that it can remain the beautiful, productive and iconic valley it is.