County Commissioners move forward with 3,100-acre conservation easement application

There is a public comment period.
Posted at 3:03 PM, Jul 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-02 17:03:59-04

EAST HELENA — A ranch in the Spokane Hills area east of Helena could soon be under a conservation easement.

The easement, if approved, would permanently protect the 3,100-acre Potter Ranch property.

The owners of the ranch brought the idea to the Prickly Pear Land Trust, who is helping arrange the deal.

"We were trying to come up with ways to keep the place together without having to sell land. That was our mindset," says Douglas Potter, the owner of Potter Ranch.

Prickly Pear Land Trust dedicated about seven years to the Potter Ranch in support of the conservation easement.

At the Lewis & Clark County Commissioners meeting on Thursday, July 2nd, 2020, the application was approved and now the public comment period begins before finalization.

"I am bursting with joy,” says Mary Hollow, the Executive Director of the Prickly Pear Land Trust. “These projects take years and they are highly emotional for families to discuss things about their estate and about their land, especially when they are generational ranches like this."

The application also includes a request of over a million dollars from the Open Lands Bond Fund to assist in securing the conservation easement. Prickly Pear Land Trust says the main criteria for funds from the bond is to have the owner’s main intent of the easement to be conservation.

"If that is there number one intention for pursuing conservation easements, we know, not only that they are going to be a good partner for us, but they are going to be a good conservation partner, promoting public lands and intact ecosystems and things like that long into the future," says Hollow.

The public has 30 days to comment on the easement as of July 2nd, 2020. To leave a comment, email your comment to