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Agricultural Land Easements - Montana

ALE
Apply by: December 30, 2022

Agricultural Land Easements help private and tribal landowners, land trusts, and other entities such as state and local governments protect croplands and grasslands on working farms and ranches by limiting non-agricultural uses of the land through conservation easements.

Landowners - Contant one of the Eligible Easement Partners in Montana (Eligible Entities). Reading the following document will help you prepare:

Eligible Entities - Contact your NRCS state office programs staff to inquire about how you can partner with NRCS to enroll conservation easements on eligible land. Visit the following Web site for general information: ACEP-ALE for Entities.

Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) are one component of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
Learn more about ACEP in Montana.
Learn more about the Agricultural Land Easements on the national ACEP-ALE Web page.

Information for Montana Applicants

When to Apply

Program applications are accepted on a continual basis. However, NRCS establishes application ranking dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications. Applications received after the ranking date will be automatically deferred to the next funding period. See Montana Programs and Application Dates.

State Ranking Questions

NRCS uses these questions to evaluate eligible applications for this project and to prioritize applications for potential funding. Montana has three ACEP-ALE funding pools, each with its own set of questions.

ACEP-ALE General Ranking Questions for Montana

  • Percent of prime, unique, statewide, or locally important farmland in the parcel to be protected?
    • Less than 49%
    • 50 % to 74%
    • 75% or greater
  • Threat of grassland conversion to cropland: Land capability classification report from the Web Soil Survey indicates that 50% or more of the native grassland soils on the proposed easement acreage are Class 1-4.
    • No
    • Yes
  • Has there been any residential, commercial, or industrial development near the proposed conservation easement during the past 5 years?
    • Greater than three miles.
    • Within three miles.
    • Within two miles.
    • Within one mile.

ACEP-ALE Grasslands of Special Significance (GSS) Ranking Questions for Montana

  • Percent of easement offer area that is grassland, shrubland, or wet meadow dominated by native grasses, grass-like plants, shrubs, or forbs.
    • Less than 50%
    • 50 % to 74%
    • 75% or greater
  • Percent of the easement offer area that is improved or naturalized pasture or rangeland.
    • 75% and greater
    • 50 - 74%
    • 10 - 49%
    • Less than 9%
  • Threat of grassland conversion to cropland: Land capability classification report from the Web Soil Survey indicates that the native grassland soils on the proposed easement acreage are Class 1-4.
    • Less than 20%
    • 20 to less than 40%
    • 40 to less than 50%
    • 50% or greater
  • Has there been any residential, commercial, or industrial development near the easement offer area during the past 5 years?
    • Within one mile
    • Within two miles
    • Within three miles
    • Greater than three miles
  • Easement Offer Area contains habitat of Federal listed Threatened or Endangered Species or State listed Species of Concern. For State listed S1, S2, and S3 species of concern reference Montana Natural Heritage Program animal and plant species of concern report. For the Federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants reference the most current U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report of listed species by applicable county.
    • Does not include habitat of any state listed species of interest or concern nor does it include habitat of federally listed threatened or endangered species.
    • Contains habitat of 1 species of concern. 
    • Contains habitat of 2 species of concern or interested or a single threatened or endanger species.
    • Contains habitat of a combination of species of concern or interest or threatened or endangered species.
  • Easement offer area is in a geographic region with an adopted land use management plan that identifies conservation easements to achieve landscape goals and objectives.
    • No Plan.
    • County land use plan that identifies and promotes the use of conservation easements to achieve the goals and objectives.
    • Community land use plan that identifies and promotes the use of conservation easements to achieve the goals and objectives.
  • Eligible entity has demonstrated performance in managing and enforcing easements by submitting to MT NRCS 100% of annual monitoring reports by the close of the fiscal year in 2021.
    • Less than 100% of annual monitoring reports were delivered to MT NRCS by the close of fiscal year 2021.
    • 100% of annual monitoring reports were delivered to MT NRCS by the close of 2021.

ACEP-ALE GSS Sage Grouse Ranking Questions for Montana

  • Percent of easement offer area that is grassland, shrubland, or wet meadow dominated by native grasses, grass-like plants, shrubs, or forbs.
    • Less than 50%
    • 50 % to 74%
    • 75% or greater
  • Percent of the easement offer area that is improved or naturalized pasture or rangeland.
    • 50 - 74%
    • 10 - 49%
    • Less than 9%
  • Threat of conversion from native sagebrush grazing lands to any other land use; including cropland: Percent of the easement offer area located in Sage Grouse Management Zones (MZ) I, II or IV General Habitat.
    • Less than 29% in MZ I, II or IV General Habitat.
    • Less than 30 to 49% in MZ I, II, or IV General Habitat.
    • Equal to or greater than 50% in MZ I, II, or IV General Habitat.
  • Threat of conversion from native sagebrush grazing lands to any other land use; including cropland: Percent of the easement offer area located within Sage Grouse Core Area.
    • Less than 0.9% in Core Area
    • Less than 1 to 29% in Core Area
    • Less than 30 to 49% in Core Area
    • Equal to or greater than 50% in Core Area
  • Threat of grassland conversion to cropland: Land capability classification report from the Web Soil Survey indicates that 50% or more of the native grassland soils on the easement offer area's acreage are Class 1-4.
    • No
    • Yes
  • Has there been any residential, commercial, or industrial development near the easement offer area during the past 5 years.
    • Within one mile
    • Within two miles
    • Within three miles
    • Greater than three miles
  • Easement Offer Area contains habitat of Federal listed Threatened or Endangered Species or State listed Species of Concern. For State listed S1, S2, and S3 species of concern reference Montana Natural Heritage Program animal and plant species of concern report. For the Federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants reference the most current U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report of listed species by applicable county.
    • Does not include habitat of any state listed species of interest or concern nor does it include habitat of federally listed threatened or endangered species.
    • Contains habitat of 1 species of concern. 
    • Contains habitat of 2 species of concern or interested or a single threatened or endanger species.
    • Contains habitat of a combination of species of concern or interest or threatened or endangered species.
  • Easement offer area is in a geographic region with an adopted land use management plan that identifies conservation easements to achieve landscape goals and objectives.
    • No Plan.
    • County land use plan that identifies and promotes the use of conservation easements to achieve the goals and objectives.
    • Community land use plan that identifies and promotes the use of conservation easements to achieve the goals and objectives.
  • Eligible entity has demonstrated performance in managing and enforcing easements by submitting to MT NRCS 100% of annual monitoring reports by the close of the fiscal year in 2021.
    • Less than 100% of annual monitoring reports were delivered to MT NRCS by the close of fiscal year 2021.
    • 100% of annual monitoring reports were delivered to MT NRCS by the close of 2021.

Additional Information

Ready to get started?

Contact your local service center to start your application.

Find Your Local Service Center

USDA Service Centers are locations where you can connect with Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or Rural Development employees for your business needs. Enter your state and county below to find your local service center and agency offices. If this locator does not work in your browser, please visit offices.usda.gov.

How to Get Assistance

Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?

Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.

how to get started

To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.

NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.

We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:

  • To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
  • To meet other eligibility certifications.

Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.

Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.

As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:

  • An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
  • A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
  • A farm tract number.

If you don’t have a farm tract number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm tract number if you’re interested in financial assistance.

NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants.

If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.

Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.