Lloyd Harris had just harvested a cow elk on his 229-acre property when he met with GVLT staff and board members to sign the final document that would place his land into a conservation easement last week. The agreement between Lloyd and GVLT will protect his property from development and fragmentation, keeping it open for wildlife forever. Lloyd’s highly scenic property is located on the Madison Plateau that runs north and south between the Amsterdam-Churchill area and the Madison River.
“We’ve got wildlife running out of our ears out here,” he said.
The Harris Family Farm is within one mile of critical elk habitat as mapped by Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and is important habitat for migrating elk, wintering mule deer, upland game birds, bald and golden eagles, and a variety of non-game grassland birds.
Lloyd has owned and farmed his property since 1974. He farms wheat, barley, and certified native grass seed with the help of his son Ted, and his farmhand and Jill-of-all-trades Quinn. The 229-acre property is predominately dryland farm ground, and one of the primary conservation values on the property are its agricultural resources. The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has designated 73% of the farm as either prime, important statewide, or locally important farmland. It is surrounded by agricultural operations and within the Amsterdam/ Churchill GVLT conservation focus area. The property lies within 5 miles of six other easements totaling more than 2,000 acres. This project marks the 115th conservation easement for GVLT, totaling 49,551 acres.
“Like a lot of farmers, I didn’t want to see this land developed. This is a wildlife paradise, and the views are great. Our neighbors put their land under a conservation easement, and I thought, that sounds like a good deal.”
Lloyd and his wife Susie began the process of obtaining a conservation easement several years ago. Unfortunately, Susie became terminally ill during the process, and she passed away earlier this year. Her passing prompted Lloyd to prioritize protection of their beloved farm on the plateau. Lloyd has graciously donated the value of the conservation easement on his land. The Gallatin County Open Lands Program provided funding to cover only the transaction costs of this project. GVLT is extremely grateful for the opportunity to help Lloyd turn his vision into a reality, and for his generosity and compassion during this project.
“We want to do our part in preserving Montana. You get out there on the Madison and you see it just like they saw it years and years ago.”
What is a conservation easement? The Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) partners with private landowners to conserve working farms and ranches, fish and wildlife habitat, open lands and scenic views. To protect these special places, GVLT uses conservation easements, which are voluntary agreements with landowners that limit development on a property while keeping it in private ownership. Each easement is tailored to the specific property and runs with the title of the land in perpetuity. GVLT is responsible for upholding the easement’s terms. Because a conservation easement limits development rights and therefore decreases the value of the land, landowners may be eligible to write off the difference as a charitable donation. In some cases, landowners receive financial compensation for a portion of the value of the conservation easement. The public benefits from the protection of conservation values such as prime agricultural soils, wildlife habitat, river corridors and the overall character of our region.
About Gallatin Valley Land Trust
Gallatin Valley Land Trust connects people, communities, and open lands through conservation of working farms and ranches, healthy rivers, and wildlife habitat, and the creation of trails in the Montana headwaters of the Missouri and Upper Yellowstone Rivers. For more information, visit www.gvlt.org.