New Conservation Easement Protects Habitat and History in Bad Rock Canyon

The Yeats family’s 76.5-acre Heart Rock Ridge farm near Columbia Falls will see its agricultural heritage preserved with a donated easement to Flathead Land Trust

By Beacon Staff
A view of the Heart Rock Ridge family farm from Columbia Mountain. Courtesy photo

A 76.5-acre family farm near Bad Rock Canyon this week received permanent protections through a conservation easement with the Flathead Land Trust, adding to a growing inventory of former agricultural and industrial parcels that will no longer be available for development.

The conservation easement donated by Luci Yeats and her late husband, Dave, is known as the Heart Rock Ridge family farm and is located near Columbia Falls, according to a news release from the Flathead Land Trust. The Heart Rock Ridge Conservation Easement maintains the property’s historic use for both people and wildlife, preserving a family legacy as well as an important wildlife travel corridor.

The Yeats property is rooted in a rich family agricultural heritage, the release states, describing the Heart Rock Ridge parcel as part of a larger family complex farmed since the early 1900s.

“The family farm has always involved community, initially producing vegetables that Luci’s great-grandfather carted to Whitefish by horse and wagon to sell,” the release states. “The farm later produced potatoes, which people from Columbia Falls helped harvest, receiving potatoes as payment.”

According to a history of the property provided by Flathead Land Trust, Luci’s father grew up on a neighboring dairy farm and delivered milk to Columbia Falls. He and Luci’s mother continued agricultural use of the property by growing hay and pasturing beef cows. Luci and her two sisters are now caretakers of the family land that continues to produce vegetables and hay and support cattle. Four generations of the Loeffler and Rogers families have worked and tended the land in the shadow of Columbia Mountain, and this year Luci and Dave’s son and his family will move back to the farm to live.

Stacking hay on Heart Rock Ridge farm in 1942. Courtesy photo

“As a steward of this property, I appreciate the opportunity to help protect the conservation values which I have grown up with and have come to treasure more and more as the years have gone by,” Luci stated in the news release. “As a child I roamed this land, and the larger acreage now owned by my sisters. I look forward to seeing my grandchildren look for shed antlers, see the first bluebirds of spring and watch the red-tailed hawks soaring overhead.”

Nestled amid millions of acres of protected lands, including the 772-acre Bad Rock Canyon Wildlife Management Area, the Flathead National Forest, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, Glacier National Park, and a more than 14,000-acre network of conserved lands along the Flathead River and north shore of Flathead Lake, the property sits in a strategic location for wildlife migrations at a landscape scale.

“The Heart Rock Ridge property helps allow wildlife to travel from the Bad Rock Canyon Wildlife Management Area past an area of intense land development near Columbia Falls, downstream to protected areas along the Flathead River,” the Flathead Land Trust announcement states.

Continuing the family legacy of community connection, Luci and her sister, Shirley Folkwein, founded the Upper Flathead Neighborhood Association in 2020 when high-density development was proposed in their neighborhood. The Upper Flathead Neighborhood Association promotes the protection of natural resources in the Flathead Valley through citizen participation, education and encouraging land use planning for sensible growth.

“As land development in the Flathead Valley continues to accelerate, I would encourage any landowner to consider placing their property under a conservation easement,” Luci stated in the Flathead Land Trust release. “There is no better time than the present to conserve a part of our valley for future generations.”