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Conserving family farmland in the Mission Valley

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News from Flathead Land Trust

MISSION VALLEY — On Dec. 27, an agricultural gem in the Mission Valley was protected in perpetuity under a conservation easement held by Flathead Land Trust. For over 50 years, a Mission Valley family has been farming this area south of Polson. Their 315-acre family farm contains rich lakebed sediments at the base of the Valley View Hills with a backdrop of the rugged Mission Mountains. It is just south of Pablo Reservoir, which provides water for irrigation that is critical for agriculture on the property. The entire farm incorporates rich soils that have been designated as prime farmland and farmland of local importance by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). For two generations the family has been farming the productive land - first raising cattle and now growing wheat and hay.

Even though the third generation has decided not to take over the family farm and instead elected to go into non-agriculture related careers, the family wanted to see their productive land stay in agriculture. They decided the best way to do this was with a purchased conservation easement through the NRCS Agricultural Land Easement program. Not only will the conservation easement ensure that their rich soils can stay in farming in perpetuity, but the family also receives cash they can use for retirement or their farming operation without having to sell any of their land.

The conservation easement on the family farm will not only keep rich farmland available for agriculture, but it will also benefit birds and wildlife. Cultivated fields and wet areas associated with the irrigation system and ephemeral waterways on the property provide good bird habitat. The family regularly observes trumpeter swan, Canada geese, great blue heron, a variety of ducks, as well as birds of prey, including bald eagle, prairie falcon, hawks, barred owl, and short-eared owl. While many of these species use the nearby Pablo Reservoir for feeding and nesting, the waterways, wet areas and cultivated fields on the property provide habitat for a diverse array of birds. In fact, over one hundred bird species have been observed in the vicinity of the property. A group of 50 to 75 sandhill cranes regularly use the property as well as species of concern such as bobolink. The property is also adjacent to a 1,849-acre ranch protected with a conservation easement held by Montana Land Reliance that contains some of the grass-covered Valley View Hills. The grassy uplands on this neighboring conservation easement, combined with the moist lowlands of the family farm, provide nesting and feeding habitat for another species of concern, the long-billed curlew, which are also often seen on the property. 

About Flathead Land Trust

Flathead Land Trust is dedicated to protecting northwest Montana’s spectacular land and water legacy through community-based conservation. As the Flathead regions local land trust since 1985, the organization plays a critical role in the protection of the natural beauty, clean water, recreational access and productive working lands that are vital to our natural heritage and fundamental to our community’s prosperity.  Find out more at


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