A broad assortment of industry groups, conservation nonprofits, ranching families and hunting and fishing access advocates on Tuesday testified in opposition to a bill that would impose term limits on many conservation easements acquired with state funding.
If passed, Senate Bill 357 would put a 40-year term limit on many conservation easements purchased with state funding by agencies such as Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The measure includes exceptions for easements that are smaller than 1,500 acres or purchased with forest legacy program funds. Easements seeking to protect critical habitat for endangered and threatened species or further Greater Sage Grouse conservation efforts would also be exempted from the term limit.
Opponents argued that reducing property owners’ access to perpetual conservation easements could threaten landowners’ ability to keep agricultural properties in family ownership, compromise lumber companies’ access to working forests, and adversely affect the open spaces that support wildlife habitat and recreational access.
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