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Environment

Creston Couple Permanently Protects Family Farmland East of Kalispell

Working with the nonprofit Flathead Land Trust, Charles and Renate Jaquette placed their 497-acre, topsoil-rich tract of land on Egan Slough into a conservation easement

By Tristan Scott
A protected piece of Egan Slough nested within the Jaquette family's conservation easement. Courtesy photo

On the rural outskirts of the Flathead Valley, a family with a multi-generational legacy of stewardship started the new year by furnishing their 117-year-old swath of Creston farmland with permanent protections, working with the nonprofit Flathead Land Trust to place the parcel into a conservation easement.

Charles and Renate Jaquette recently joined a growing roster of local landowners who have opted to preserve the valley’s agricultural heritage through conservation easements, which in this most recent case involves a 497-acre parcel purchased with funding from the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Agricultural Land Easement program. The Jaquette property builds upon a network of more than 13,000 acres of conserved land along a 50-mile stretch of the Flathead River and the north shore of Flathead Lake, providing “an integral piece of the preservation puzzle,” according to a press release from the Flathead Land Trust announcing the deal.

Moreover, it helps farmers overcome the challenges cropping up as the Flathead Valley’s population expands and development pressures increase, offering them an opportunity to safeguard some of the highest quality top soils and most fertile farm ground in the state, according to the land trust.

“This NRCS program is a great way for farmers to be compensated for keeping their valuable land in agriculture. The landowners are able to keep their land intact and have some cash for retirement or to pay down a mortgage or whatever the landowner chooses,” Laura Katzman of the nonprofit Flathead Land Trust said. “The easement ensures there will never be a residential subdivision or box store or gas station or dump on the property. The property will remain largely as it is today throughout time.”

A wheat field on the Jaquette family property. Courtesy photo

Encompassing over a mile of Egan Slough, the easement east of Kalispell adds to a growing network of conserved farms in the highly productive Creston area, including a 731-acre farm placed under easement by Myron and Vicky Mast with Montana Land Reliance late last year.

“Safeguarding these fertile farming grounds in the Creston area is vital to preserving the Flathead Valley’s agricultural heritage and way of life,” according to Katzman. “This suite of protected lands also protects scenic vistas and open space that is exceedingly valuable to the public.”

The Jaquette family’s farming legacy has been passed down through generations since 1907, when Charles Jaquette’s grandfather, also named Charles, first settled in the Flathead Valley. The family farm has raised everything from hogs to wheat, canola, potatoes, barley, peas, corn, soybeans, mint and hay.

“They had a few dairy cows in the early years and later switched to grazing some beef cattle. The property is perfect for agriculture, if irrigated, with the majority of it containing prime farmland,” according to program officials with NRCS. “The conservation easement will ensure that the family farm stays intact as one parcel and will limit residential and commercial development in perpetuity, protecting its conservation values.”

A potato field on the 497-acre Jaquette property near Creston. Courtesy photo

The Jaquette property provides excellent bird habitat and is strategically located for both birds and wildlife at a landscape scale. Lying within a major bird flyway, the easement serves as critical stopover habitat for birds to rest and refuel on their long migrations, the news release states. The conservation network also expands a travel corridor for wildlife, including grizzly bears that travel through the habitat and affords nesting habitat for numerous species of birds, including bald eagle, which nest on an island in Egan Slough located within the property.

“The rich soils will forever be available for agriculture and its wetlands will remain intact for birds and wildlife in the future,” the press release states.

The Flathead Land Trust works with private property owners to protect northwest Montana’s land and water legacy through community-based conservation. As the Flathead region’s local land trust since 1985, the organization plays a prominent 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,” according to its website.

Find out more at www.flatheadlandtrust.org.

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