GVLT Conservation Stewardship team preparing for field season

Spring is not only an exciting time of year for our Trails team, which is preparing for upcoming trail enhancement and maintenance projects and volunteer events, but also for GVLT’s Conservation Stewardship team. This month, our Stewardship team has begun preparing for a busy season of visiting with over 100 families who have worked with GVLT to conserve more than 65,000 acres throughout our service area in Gallatin, Park, and Madison counties.

Our Stewardship activities are perhaps a lesser-known, but very important part of GVLT’s conservation mission. Helping landowners utilize the tool of conservation easements to forever conserve their agricultural heritage, productive soils, wildlife habitat, scenic open views, and clean waterways is just the beginning of a long-term partnership between landowners and GVLT. Once a conservation easement is created, GVLT has a legal obligation to visit the property once a year to ensure the provisions of the easement and the vision of the original easement grantor are honored in perpetuity, even if the property changes hands.

Dedicated to value-added stewardship, our Stewardship team also seeks to build strong, collaborative relationships with our landowners by listening to their needs, staying on top of current land and resource management best practices, and connecting them with local experts and funding sources to enhance the conservation values of their land.

“Many easement landowners appreciate our modest cost-share program, which supports a variety of stewardship activities, including fencing, wildlife damage mitigation, and noxious weed management projects,” explains GVLT Land Steward Kevin Grunewald.

GVLT’s Stewardship team also seeks opportunities to connect landowners to other small grant funds and experts that provide various natural resource management services, such as wildfire fuel mitigation, waterway restoration, timber management, and weed management.

Our Stewardship team values the reciprocal nature of their relationship with landowners.

“We learn a great deal from landowners as they share their experience and proven methods for tending to the landscape, particularly when working with agricultural producers,” says GVLT Stewardship Director Jeremy Puckett. “This is additional knowledge we can share with other producers facing similar challenges.”

The majority of our annual site visits are conducted in person with one of our team members walking the property.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to get out and ‘kick the dirt’ with our landowner partners on their properties to learn more about their personal triumphs and challenges, and how GVLT can help support their conservation goals.”

We also continue to use remote monitoring methods, including imagery from aerial flyovers or satellite imagery, in some cases. Remote monitoring enables us to observe terrain that is difficult to navigate on foot and ensures we can monitor our increasing number of conservation easements, now totaling 128.

Protecting highly productive, scenic, and wildlife-rich land with a conservation easement is just the beginning of the conservation journey and a long-term partnership between landowners and GVLT. As we head into our field season and begin scheduling site visits, we look forward to connecting with each family to discuss anticipated projects, stewardship challenges, and partnership opportunities—always seeking ways to benefit our landowner partners and the conservation values of their land.