volunteers in the News
Land Trust Census shows progress in Montana
By Andy Baur, IR Your Turn | Posted: Friday, December 2, 2011 12:00 am
2010 National Land Trust Census, released in mid-November, reveals
information that from a Montana standpoint is both illustrative and
The Land Trust Census is produced by the national
Land Trust Alliance based on information from America’s land trusts. It
is conducted every five years with the information just released
highlighting a five-year period ending in 2010. The data reflect
national and state-by-state trends among land trusts, nonprofit
organizations that work with landowners on agreements — conservation
easements — that protect working farms, ranches and forests.
landowners and communities have long been recognized as a private land
conservation leader, and the 2010 census validates that recognition. The
census found these trends within Montana from 2005-2010:
- Land trusts in Montana have protected 1,130,808 acres — this
represents a 41 percent increase in acres conserved since 2005. Montana
ranks fourth in the nation in acres conserved, and first in the
- Montana land trusts increased their full- and part-time staff and
contractors 23 percent in five years, for a total of 91 paid positions
- Land trusts in Montana drew upon the work of 579 active volunteers
(an increase of 37 percent since 2005) and the contributions of 5,283
members and financial supporters.
- As a signal of the land trust community’s commitment to
excellence, there are now three accredited land trusts in Montana.
Together, these three groups have protected 954,624 acres as of 2010.
It is significant to note that during troubled economic years,
Montana private land conservation continued to flourish; a testament to
the commitment of landowners and land trust supporters.
consider conservation easements that landowners have entered into with
land trusts and state or federal government agencies, Montanans have
protected over 2.1 million acres of private land since the first Montana
conservation easement was signed back in 1976. That is a remarkable
achievement. Moreover, some land trusts are working to secure better
access to our public lands for recreation, hunting and fishing. Several
Montana land trusts, such as Prickly Pear Land Trust, also engage
volunteers to develop and maintain community trail systems that both
enhance our quality of life and benefit the local economy.
maintaining a beneficial pace of conservation, Montana land trusts have
also ramped up commitment to professional excellence. Three members of
the Montana Association of Land Trusts have achieved accreditation from
the National Land Trust Accreditation Commission, the highest standard
for land trust excellence. Four additional Montana land trusts,
including Prickly Pear Land Trust, are either currently or soon will be engaged in the exhaustive accreditation approval process.
decades Montanans have intuitively understood the value of private land
conservation. Montanans have ensured that we have a variety of local,
state and national land trust organizations to enable this work within
our borders, and the number of Montanans who volunteer for and support
these efforts continues to grow. For example, Montana land trust
volunteers increased by 37 percent between 2005 and 2010. Their energy
and passion are integral to the stunning success of land trusts in
True recognition, however, belongs to Montana
landowners. A land trust holds a conservation easement, and that
easement is essentially a promise to the landowner and to the public
that the terms of that easement will be permanently honored. It is
Montana landowners who make a decision to benefit us all by voluntarily
conserving working lands, wildlife habitat, scenic views, intact forests
and outdoor recreation areas. Land trusts serve to proudly and
professionally hold and enforce that landowner decision.
35th anniversary of Montana’s first conservation easement, and PPLT’s
15th year in operation, it is encouraging, but not surprising, that the
2010 National Land Trust Census finds Montanans striving for excellence
in and expanding our support for private land conservation.
Andy Baur is the executive director of the Helena-based Prickly P