Montana's Forest Legacy Program is designed to conserve forest lands and to maintain natural and public values by assisting with the purchase of conservation easements or fee-title on private forest lands. A conservation easement is a legal means that allows land to remain in private ownership while ensuring natural resource values of the land will not be compromised by incompatible development. The program offers an opportunity for private, local, state, and federal interests to cooperatively furnish forest landowners with new incentives to voluntarily protect their forest resources.
Landowner participation in the program is completely voluntary. The landowner must be a willing seller of the parcel, to which he or she must hold a clear and unencumbered title. The landowner must clearly understand the conservation easement concept. Landowners who wish to include their lands in the program may submit an application to FWP. Their lands must be forested, must fall within designated forest legacy areas, must meet specific eligibility criteria described herein, and must conserve forest resources. A 25% cost-share match of purchase funds must also be available.
The Federal Forest Legacy Program is one of several national programs established to promote the long-term integrity of forest lands. Specifically, the intent of the Forest Legacy Program is to identify and protect environmentally important private forest lands that are threatened by conversion to non-forest uses. The US Forest Service implements the program through close cooperation with a lead state agency. FWP is the lead agency for Montana.
The overall goal of the Montana Forest Legacy Program is to conserve and enhance land, water, wildlife, and timber resources while providing for the continued working of Montana's forest lands and the maintenance of natural and public values. Many forest lands across Montana will meet the eligibility criteria for the Forest Legacy Program. To determine the outstanding ones, each area will be evaluated within its regional context. Those values may be expressed in terms of regionally distinctive scenic, geologic, or biological resources and societal benefits. Ideally, areas selected will embody multiple public values of a regional scale, enjoy public support, be threatened with imminent conversion, be delineated by natural boundaries, and/or contribute to biodiversity.