A 2,500-acre ranch along the Big Hole River north of Glen, between Butte and Dillon, was recently permanently protected from development through a conservation easement with the Montana Land Reliance.
The Gainey Foundation land is bounded on one side by three miles of the Big Hole River and by Bureau of Land Management land to the north, according to a news release from the reliance.
In 2011, the Gainey Foundation approached the land reliance group to permanently conserve its ranch with a conservation easement. In 2013, the Gainey Foundation worked with the National Resources Conservation Service to create a Wetland Reserve Easement on its wetland and adjacent acres. In 2016, with support from NRCS and private donors, MLR successfully met the sale price and recorded the easement in Madison County.
The foundation will continue to use the property as a retreat center. The entire property is protected from rural subdivision and will prohibit trophy homes. The river continues to be available to all Montanans.
Both the NRCS and MLR easements protect significant fish and wildlife habitat, open space, and agricultural lands, the news release said.
This acreage also includes land in the Highlands mountains, providing permanent wildlife habitat and connectivity for moose, elk, sheep, and antelope.
A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a landowner and a qualified organization, such as The Montana Land Reliance. A conservation easement restricts certain land uses, such as residential development to protect conservation values.
Since its establishment in 1978, MLR has completed over 825 easement agreements protecting nearly one million acres of private property in Montana. MLR holds 15 other conservation easements in the Big Hole River area — over 14,500 acres of land and 50 miles of river and stream frontage.