Conserving Private Land in Perpetuity

Since 2004, the Blackfoot Challenge has coordinated the Conservation Easement Work Group. Chaired by David Mannix, a member of a multi-generational ranch family in Helmville, the purpose of the work group is to provide a forum for landowners, land trusts, agencies, and county planners to discuss how to ensure conservation easements continue to be an effective tool to serve both conservation and rural livelihoods in the Blackfoot watershed.

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified organization that limits the uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Private landownership can include a variety of rights, such as water rights, timber harvesting rights, or the right to subdivide and develop. Through a conservation easement, a landowner sells or donates the right to subdivide and develop land in order to permanently preserve the land’s conservation and/or agricultural values.

If you are interested in learning more about conservation easements, we encourage you to take a look at this Guide to Conservation Easements that we developed together with the many entities that work on conservation easements in the Blackfoot watershed.

It’s impossible to design a conservation easement with the vision of perpetuity intact.
Just because an easement is on the property doesn’t mean the conservation is done and we have solved how to help people make a living on the land. There will always be changing and evolving conditions that we need to address – and in order to do so effectively, we need to do it together.

-David Mannix, Mannix Brothers Ranch, Helmville

The Blackfoot watershed has a long legacy of conservation — Montana’s first conservation easement was established in the Blackfoot watershed in 1976 after local landowners worked with The Nature Conservancy to draft legislation that enabled their use. To learn more about this story, watch the short film “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: The Story of Montana Private Land Conservation,” created by our partners at Montana Association of Land Trusts.