By Sara Huger – Resort Tax

Big Sky is a special place. What makes it special to each of us varies, but I would bet that many of you moved here to enjoy the wildlife, clean water, and scenic views. Land trusts throughout Montana help preserve these unique regional qualities through their work on voluntary conservation easements, and have been successful in doing so, protecting over 2.5 million acres of open space in Montana. With the U.S. losing more than an acre of open land every minute, and Montana losing 1,500 acres of open space to development each month, this work is more important than ever before.

The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) is one of a handful of organizations in the area that partners with private landowners to permanently protect agricultural lands, fish and wildlife habitat, and open space. MLR is committed to conservation throughout Montana and has offices in central, western, and southwest Montana. One of MLR’s southwest offices has dedicated staff that live and work in Big Sky.

In addition to helping landowners conserve new lands, MLR partners with private landowners to ensure that existing conserved lands are stewarded for the benefit of current and future generations. MLR’s work is voluntary. It gives landowners a choice about what is best for the future of their lands. It is about being good stewards of the land that has been entrusted to us by past and future generations. It is about the shared value of leaving something better than you found it. Private land conservation also benefits and is important for public lands. The wide-open spaces on private land that hold wildlife habitat and free-flowing water keep our public lands healthy.

MLR has protected eight properties within or touching the Resort Tax Boundary equaling 26,428 acres of habitat and stream frontage preserved, which includes a recently completed conservation easement on over 2,400 acres that straddles two wilderness areas and abuts national forest and other conserved land. This easement is home to many species of animals including elk, grizzly and black bear, mule deer, and wolverine. MLR is currently working on an additional 3,700 acres of conservation easement projects within the Resort Tax Boundary. MLR’s success is due in large part to funding sources like Resort Tax, which make having a viable Big Sky office possible.