Madison Valley Ranch Land Permanently Protected

January 5, 2012
Bozeman

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), in partnership with the Montana Land Reliance (MLR) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), today announced the permanent protection from development of 1,406 acres of ranchland in the heart of the Madison Valley.

The protection came through conservation easements, which permit landowners to keep their land but restrict it from being subdivided for development. The announcement means the permanent protection of grazing land, wildlife habitat, and stunning views of the Madison Range, including the iconic Sphinx Mountain.

The conserved land is located on the east side of Highway 287, about 10 miles south of Ennis, near the town of Cameron. It is owned by brothers John and Joseph Gecho and is almost completely surrounded by existing Montana Land Reliance conservation easements and public land belonging to the state of Montana.

"Selling these conservation easements to TPL and MLR allows me and my family the opportunity to keep this land as productive agricultural land," said John Gecho. "We didn't want to see our ranch turn into yet another subdivision."

"These easements are part of a larger strategy that TPL and MLR are pursuing to protect the Madison Valley's agricultural heritage and the wildlife values that make it so special," said TPL Project Manager Alex Diekmann. "This purchase fills another critical gap in the conservation puzzle and will go a long way in ensuring that the valley's extraordinary habitat and scenic values remain unchanged."

This is the ninth time that TPL and MLR have partnered in the Madison Valley. To date, more than 150,000 acres - roughly half of the private land in the valley - have been permanently conserved, making this one of the largest conservation success stories in the American West. The Montana Land Reliance holds easements on more than 110,000 acres in the Madison Valley.

The easements were bought using funds from the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), with matching funds coming from MLR and TPL's Madison Valley Land Acquisition Fund. That latter fund was created three years ago to conserve working lands throughout the valley. The easements are being held by MLR for long-term monitoring and enforcement.

"This project is a prime example of how we can work with private landowners to conserve land for future generations," said Jay Erickson of Montana Land Reliance. "Conserving working family farms and ranches is essential to maintaining the Madison Valley's character and quality of life."

"NRCS is thrilled with this partnership," states Dennis Dellwo, NRCS FRPP Program Specialist in Montana. "The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program is designed to assist eligible nonprofit organizations and land trusts in acquiring easements to protect and keep productive farm and ranchlands in agricultural use for future generations."

The Madison Valley and the majestic mountains that cradle it are considered one of the most ecologically intact corners of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, providing habitat for grizzly and black bear, elk, moose, gray wolf, pronghorn antelope, and even the elusive wolverine and Canada lynx.

The Montana Land Reliance provides permanent protection for private lands that are significant for agricultural production, fish and wildlife habitat, and open space. The immediate accomplishments of MLR's conservation work are measured in miles of stream banks and acres of land and habitat protected. The lasting benefits of MLR's work are the perpetuation of a lifestyle and economy that rely on responsibly managed private land and increasingly valuable Montana open spaces that will continue to nourish the spirit of future generations. The Montana Land Reliance has permanently protected nearly 900,000 acres of Montana's open space and more than 1,500 miles of river and stream bank.

The Trust for Public Land is the nation's leader in creating parks in cities and helping local communities creating funding to protect the places they love. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres across the country, including more than 600,000 acres throughout the Northern Rockies-places where people love to live, work, and play.