Montana Aquatic Resource Services recently released a white paper on Channel Migration Easements (CME). A specific form of conservation easement, a CME allows a landowner to continue to use their land while allowing the river to migrate across the floodplain within the easement boundaries. Like a traditional conservation easement, CMEs restrict the permitted uses on a landowner's property. Typically, restrictions outlined in the easement focus on avoiding the cost and habitat impact of armoring, hardening, or diking the riverbank and floodplain.
CMEs also typically allow landowners to retain the right to manage the acres for agricultural production, irrigation, recreation, and other uses. CMEs are used to keep a river connected to its floodplain by providing the river protected space to move across its valley within the historical channel migration zone.
CMEs provide benefits both to rivers, larger ecosystems, and adjacent landowners. The paper released by MARS and linked in the "LEARN MORE" button below further articulates the benefits of allowing a river to freely migrate.
So far MARS has worked with conservation partners and thoughtful landowners to close Montana's first two channel migration easements (CMEs). The first CME was on 90 acres owned by the Navratil family along the Yellowstone River. The second CME protected the Yellowstone River downstream of the Sand Creek and Yellowstone River confluence on property owned by the Rau family.