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Success Story

Conserving Open Space in Montana

RCPP in Action
Publish Date
Aerial view of rangeland near Sauerbier Ranches LLC.

The Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) along with 17 partner organizations has been awarded a $3.8 million renewal of conservation funding through NRCS’ Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

The funding will allow GVLT and partners to continue focused conservation efforts in the rapidly developing Gallatin Valley in Montana. The funds will be used to purchase conservation easements from willing landowners and to complete land stewardship projects in the valley to protect water quality, prime farmland and reduce urban sprawl. The majority of funds go directly to farmers and ranchers to complete conservation projects on their properties.

GVLT first received a $3.8 million award in 2015 and has used the funds to acquire seven conservation easements totaling over 2,600 acres and complete six land stewardship projects in partnership with landowners and the NRCS. This first RCPP project allocation produced $21 million in total conservation value, providing a 5-to-1 match of NRCS funds.

“This focused partnership project has brought together the resources to conserve more open space and address resource concerns on more acres in the Gallatin Valley than either group could have done individually,” said Tom Watson, NRCS state conservationist for Montana.

This award creates a special pool of money for landowners in the Gallatin Valley to access NRCS’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). Projects are evaluated locally, and funds stay within the Gallatin Valley. This type of focused conservation effort targets land use conversion and urban sprawl, which threaten the agricultural heritage of the Gallatin Valley.   

The Gallatin County Open Lands Program, which was renewed by Gallatin County landowners in 2018, provides an essential source of local matching funds that is required for RCPP funding consideration.

“At a time when the Gallatin Valley is facing unprecedented growth, this special allocation of funds will increase the pace of conservation in the Valley,” said Brendan Weiner, GVLT Program Director. “Thank you to the NRCS for strategically allocating these funds to a place that is committed to conserving its agricultural heritage and has a proven record of conservation success.”

Additional Information

The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is a partner-driven approach to conservation that funds solutions to natural resource challenges on agricultural land. By leveraging collective resources and collaborating on common goals, RCPP demonstrates the power of public-private partnerships in del