Conservation Easement Benefits
"Conservation can only happen once, it’s a fleeting opportunity in the overall scheme of time. These are not just decisions of a lifetime, they are decisions that impact the history of the world.” – Jim Valeo, conservation easement donor and Five Valleys Land Trust Board Member.
Legacy – For many landowners, a conservation easement means knowing that the generations of stewardship that have gone into their family lands will not be lost in the future. An easement may also be a key to assuring continued family ownership and management of those family lands.
Predictability – A conservation easement can be a great tool for establishing certainty about future uses of a property. Used wisely in estate planning, a conservation easement can provide peace of mind for current owners and future generations alike.
Community – Conservation easements protect many natural values cherished by landowners and the broader community alike. Frequently, landowners generously donate or sell conservation easements to protect land recognized as priceless community treasures.
Financial – When it is created, a conservation easement can be valued by a qualified appraisal. When an appraised easement is donated, the gift is recognized as a charitable contribution. The tax incentives associated with the gift can be beneficial to the donor. In some cases, if the public benefit of the easement warrants it, conservation easements may be purchased. Landowners sometimes use that sale income to reduce debt or reinvest in productive land. There are additional estate tax benefits that apply to conservation easements.
Clean Water – Clean, cold water tumbles in snow-fed rivulets from the high country to become the great rivers of western Montana, sustaining farms, ranches, communities, and the natural abundance of this magnificent landscape. When water passes through a natural hydrologic system it remains clean and abundant. Less development means fewer wells, septic systems, roads, and homes. Each of these has the potential to contaminate water and may eventually require stabilization with river engineering efforts that fuarther disrupt or degrade natural hydrologic systems. Conservation easements can prevent unwise subdivision and development along our rivers and streams.
Wildlife Habitat – Whether it’s the bull moose foraging on the mossy cobbles beneath the crystal clear waters of Rock Creek, the great grizzly bears that graze in the forests of the Blackfoot Valley, or the Sandhill Cranes who call eerily from our marshy native grasslands, all of the animals that captured the imagination of Lewis and Clark over 200 years ago survive in western Montana today. From birders to big game hunters, anglers to entomologists Montanans have always valued and sought to protect our abundant and diverse wildlife. A conservation easement can be designed to assure that lasting protection.
Working farms and ranches – Family farms and ranches provide the hard-working backbone for western Montana’s treasured landscape. Well-managed family lands have put food on our tables, money in our local economy, and preserved critical open spaces for generations. They are as much a part of the Montana landscape as high mountain ridges, broad river valleys, and big skies. While nature's pace can replenish fertile topsoil that gets scraped from beneath fingernails before suppertime, it cannot compete with bulldozers. Prime farmland is often prime development land—flat, with deep, rich soil—and with growing demand, much of the richest agricultural soil is being converted to residential and commercial uses. Five Valleys Land Trust makes it a high priority to work with families determined to preserve the working landscape and the traditions it supports.
Recreation – Outdoor recreation is part of the living, breathing fabric of our communities and our lives in western Montana. From anglers to hikers, birders to big game hunters, Montanans find ways to get outdoors in every season. Kids grow up fishing the rivers, skiing the slopes, and hiking the trails, all activities that provide lifetime enjoyment. Five Valleys Land Trust, from its beginning as the Five Valleys River Parks Association, has worked to protect, enhance, and enable opportunities for all to enjoy the wonder of the natural world.