With Giving Tuesday around the corner and year-end giving campaigns underway, we are pledging donations to organizations that matter to us and inspire the work we do. We’ve created a list of folks in Montana and across the west that we think are doing meaningful work in the intersection between people and land for you to learn more!
Though there are countless ways to enjoy natural and wild places, the USFS cabin rental program provides a unique experience to convene with some of the most beautiful places throughout our country. Maintained by the USFS, the cabins are available on a first come, first serve basis by booking through the National Recreation Reservation System. Almost every aspect of staying in a USFS cabin or tower requires a bit more work than a typical vacation rental or cabin-getaway. In our experience, the reward is well worth the (mostly enjoyable) work.
At a recent tour of the Hahn Ranch and the greater Deep Creek watershed, ranchers along with folks from Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks (MT FWP) as well as Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (MT DNRC) spoke of the various elements that contributed to the successful improvement of Deep Creek, which has been the focus of watershed restoration for over 20 years. One of the specific efforts mentioned was the role of MT FWP in funding the conservation efforts of landowners. MT FWP has a variety of vehicles they utilize to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes including (but not limited to) funding water conservation projects related to water conveyance and irrigation methods, finding alternative / replacement water sources for participating water rights holders, and leasing water rights for in-stream flow.
There are a number of tools used across the country to connect people to land, promote ownership and equity, and preserve community values related to land-use. Community land trusts (CLTs) are one of these tools. Community land trusts are nonprofit, community-based organizations that aim to foster community stewardship of land.
Private landowners in Montana now have another option when considering how to integrate hunting into their land management operations and stewardship strategies. The Montana Hunter Advancement Program promotes safe, ethical, and responsible hunting through its focused “Master Hunter” certification program, offered in partnership with forward-thinking private landowners across the state.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture census data, the average age of farmers and ranchers exceeded 58 years of age for the first time in 2012. Succession planning is one of the aspects of aging land operators and properties nearing transition.
The historic Finlen Hotel in Butte, which opened in 1924, has sold. The transaction was made possible in part to a $412,000 loan from Butte’s Uptown taxing district, the Urban Revitalization Agency (URA). The URA is a tax-increment financing (TIF) district, which generates funds by property tax dollars from new developments that are then re-invested in private buildings in the area through grants and loans.
University extensions in both Idaho and Montana are experimenting with various varieties of berries in an effort to determine which berries, if any, can be grown successfully at a commercial scale in the Intermountain West. Extension research primarily aimed at answering questions of which plant cultivars are going to do well and fit their markets helps landowners potentially increase their likelihood of success.
The USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications under the Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP) for the Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) and the Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) programs. The deadline for funding in Montana is March 1, 2018. The announced cut-off date for funding consideration in Wyoming is January 26, 2018.
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. So far MARS has worked with conservation partners and thoughtful landowners to close Montana's first two channel migration easements (CMEs).
Nationwide, farm real estate values average $3,080 per acre in 2017, up $70 an acre or 2.3 % from 2016. The Mountain region has the lowest farm real estate value at $1,130 per acre. The value of cropland in the same region increased 1.1% year-over-year to $1,780 and pasture land values rose 1.3% to $625 per acre in 2017.
Recently we visited the Gaffke Ranch in the Gallatin Valley. The most impactful part of the tour was not the low water component, but Mike's take on the changes to water availability. Mike seemed to be more concerned with the dissolution of community as a result of the decrease in agricultural water users than the water itself.
In Montana, Montana State University Extension is leading the charge to identify and preserve the heritage orchards that still exist through their Montana Heritage Orchard Program. The designation of Heritage Orchard gives landowners recognition, and helps preserve and propagate the unique fruit tree cultivars.
This summer we had the opportunity to tour one of Montana's Heritage Orchards. The Yellowstone Springs Ranch orchard is currently undergoing the process of genetic testing to determine and catalog the exact cultivars of trees.
According to the latest release from Northwest Farm Credit Services, agricultural real estate values in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, are stable and increasing through the first half of 2017. Despite weaker commodity prices and less than favorable weather patterns in parts of the northwest, the constrained supply of properties for sale has continued to stabilize land values.