DU educates Montana landowners about conservation

Ducks Unlimited staff and partners held workshops in 2016 in Montana to inform landowners about the many conservation easement options available.

Ducks Unlimited staff and partners held workshops in 2016 in Montana to inform landowners about the many conservation easement options available. Additional meetings, organized by Pheasants Forever (PF) biologists were held to address expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres and reenrollment alternatives for landowners.

"Many landowners have acres that have been in CRP for a long time," said Abby Dresser, DU biologist in Montana. "This year, we will see 391,000 acres of CRP expire in Montana with no option for reenrollment. Landowners want to keep their land in conservation programs that benefit wildlife and their operations."

Establishing conservation easements and enrolling in the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) can be daunting. Dresser, PF biologists, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff and other partners can help landowners navigate the paperwork and nuances of easement requirements to help them determine, and enroll in, the ones that are right for them.

"When one program closes, there are usually other options that provide similar benefits. With help, the transitions are relatively smooth," said Dresser. "We are helping landowners find alternatives to keep their land, soil and water healthy, along with protecting wildlife habitat." 

"There has never been a time in Montana where landowners have had so many options when it comes to conservation easements," said Glenn Marx, executive director of the Montana Association of Land Trusts. "There is a diversity of groups including federal and non-profit organizations with programs that provide opportunities for landowners to find a program that best fits their operation."

Attendance at the workshops ranged from 6 to 25 producers, with real estate and bank professionals attending to learn about conservation easements. Dresser also invited partners to speak about their conservation easement programs, including Montana Association of Land Trusts, Montana Land Reliance, The Nature Conservancy, Prickly Pear Land Trust, Bitter Root Land Trust, Five Valleys Land Trust, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Workshops were held in Roundup, Lewistown, Joliet, Glasgow, Malta, Chinook, Stevensville, Twin Bridges, Helena, Culbertson and Miles City.

This year, Pheasants Forever biologists organized workshops with NRCS and DU to specifically address expiring CRP acres. These workshops reached more than 500 landowners. The events were held in Ryegate, Billings, Scobey, Froid, Glasgow, Choteau, Shelby, Havre and Great Falls.

For more information about conservation program options, contact Abby Dresser at adresser@ducks.org or 406-544-6445.