Flat Top Ranch Easement Followup

You may remember the controversy prompted by the Flat Top Ranch’s application for a $300,000 match from Blaine County Land, Water & Wildlife Program‘s funds levied by Blaine County citizens “to protect natural resources and the quality of life valued by area residents.”

The controversy started when the Flat Top Ranch’s application sought to fund a private conservation easement on its property with levy dollars immediately after three wolves were killed on the ranch by Wildlife Services in response to less-than solid evidence that wolves were responsible for a single dead cow.

Citizens in Blaine County rallied and convinced the Blaine County Commissioners that tax-dollars raised to protect wildlife in the county should not be used to fund projects that promote the slaughter of wildlife, including wolves:

After receiving a groundswell of public comments prompted by Western Watersheds Project and local wolf advocates’ tireless effort the Blaine County Commission voted to require the Flat Top Ranch and The Nature Conservancy to provide a predator management plan emphasizing non-lethal protection of livestock prior to the Commission’s final approval of the ranch’s conservation easement application.

In response to the Commissioners’ direction, new draft language is being considered. The language is purported to be as follows:

HUNTING, TRAPPING AND FISHING.  Grantor reserves the right to hunt, fish, and trap on the Property in compliance with state law, provided that trapping is consistent with the Conservation Values and preservation of habitat conditions. In addition, in controlling predatory and problem animals, Grantor shall comply with all applicable laws and use selective and humane control techniques, including, where practicable, non-lethal deterrents and management practices.

(emphasis added).

As is so often the case with stipulations directing management, the devil is in the details.  Vaguely conditional language kills the enforceability of a document – and in this case it is likely to kill wolves on Flat Top Ranch.

Blaine County Commissioners should ensure enforceable language in the conservation easement if they are to extend $300,000 in Blaine County tax-payer dollars to Flat Top Ranch.



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Brian Ertz