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Current Events: Conservation easement proposed in Missoula's Rattlesnake

Ten Spoon Winery Easement Winter
Posted at 11:28 AM, Mar 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-17 13:28:05-04

MISSOULA - This edition of Current Events with Martin Kidston of the Missoula Current takes an in-depth look at a proposed conservation easement at Ten Spoon Winery in the Rattlesnake.

“The City Council is currently considering accepting what's going to be a conservation easement from the private property owners back here. They want to donate their 27 acres to the city as a conservation easement. The city will accept that. They'll take on the maintenance of that property over the long term,” Kidston explained.

“The landowners will maintain ownership of a property, but [it is placed] under an easement that limits what they can do at the property. So, by doing that they remove that 27 acres from future development, keep it as open space, and of course, they say it's rich and habitat, native grasslands all kind of benefits,” Kidston said.

There is a lot of wildlife in the Rattlesnake — as well as some expensive homes — which makes the land valuable.

“It's very valuable and you know, they're going to be forfeiting that value by placing it under an easement. So, it's really a private property decision. They want to keep it in their own hands, but they also want it to be a public benefit and that's kind of what a conservation [easement will do],” Kidston noted. “It'll limit future development to prevent future development on the property. It'll [be maintained] as a winery but also maintained as open space for the future."

The land could house a lot of people, but one question is whether the area could sustain that much development.

“You know, it's hard to say. The Rattlesnake is pretty well built out. So, you know, there's not a lot of room for infield development,” Kidston commented. “So initially, there were some questions about this. Would it be better suited for housing? Because Missoula clearly has a housing crisis. The Rattlesnake doesn't have a lot of places to put more housing. This property could do that, but that's not what the landlords want.”

One concern about if very dense housing was built is that it could be a wildfire risk.

“You know, there's only, like, one way in and out and just to cram more people in here and they all have to evacuate that. [It would] be a big safety issue, too,” Kidston said. “We've seen those concerns in Grant Creek...with ingress and egress. It's limited. The Rattlesnake does have two exits out.”

“Lower Miller [Creek] or Grant Creek has one, but still being your talking about this -- beautiful open space,” Kidston explained. “You got a lot of wildlife coming down from the hills, they've seen bears, they've seen wolves, migrating birds, you know, there's a lot here and...the thought is that is more valuable as open space than it is for housing.”

“There'll be public access through the property from one side to the other. So, you know, you see those big open space. It's not easy to get from over there to over here, but they will have an easement going through the center of the property, that will be open to the public,” Kidston said.

“It's a beautiful space...and [the] Rattlesnake is very fortunate to have all this. You got the wilderness to the north and it's a great place Missoula's fortunate to have these kind of opportunities,” Kidston concluded.