Fox Farm Easement Application

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Helena Unit of the Central Land Office has received an easement application for public park and recreation purposes on Department managed State Trust Lands in the southwestern area of Great Falls immediately off Fox Farm Road, described as Government Lots 6 and 7 in Section 23, Township 20 North, Range 3 East. The application proposes to encumber 79.27 acres of the total 85.01-acre state-owned tract. The remaining 5.74 acres in the southeast corner of the tract is currently leased for commercial purposes and will not be included within the proposed easement.

The State Trust Lands within this project were acquired by the State in 1889 pursuant to the Enabling Act in fulfillment of acreage allocations to support the University of Montana.  

Public park and recreation easements on State Trust Land may only be held by a qualified public entity, such as a local or county government. The proponent of the public easement, the Missouri River Open Lands Preservation group, engaged with the Cascade County Commissioners to support and make application for this use of the State Trust Land. Through this collaboration, the Commission is willing to hold the easement for the public use, while MROLP will be responsible for all costs associated with the submission of the application, including the cost of the easement itself.


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Explanation of Easement Application and Process

Step 1. Easement application received
A qualified public entity, such as a local or county government, submits an easement application.

Step 2. Department conducts environmental analysis and public scoping
In accordance with the Montana Environmental Policy Act, the Department is conducting an environmental analysis with a 30-day public comment period that will result in a final MEPA analysis document and a record of decision issued. In addition to analyzing impacts on the environment, the analysis document will incorporate comments from the public regarding the proposal.

Specialists including wildlife biologists, hydrologists, soil scientists, and archeologists may be consulted as part of the Montana Environmental Policy Act process. DNRC strives to balance its fiduciary responsibilities with its stewardship responsibilities that are intended to promote biodiversity and subsequently protect the future income-generating capacity of State Trust Lands.

Step 3. Department obtains property appraisal
Concurrent with public scoping, the Department will contract with a Montana General Certified Appraiser to appraise the affected State Trust Land tract. The appraiser is to appraise the property as if it is in private ownership and could be sold on the open market and is required to determine the highest and best use of the parcel that is physically possible, supported, and financially feasible.  As mandated by the Montana Constitution and State Statute, no interest in State Trust Land may be sold without obtaining the full, fair market value of the land.

The Department will review the appraisal for adherence to the scope of work and contract specifications and reserve the right to accept or reject the appraiser’s opinion of value. Appraisals conducted for the purpose of an easement remain valid for a period of 12 months from the date of the report. Should the easement application not move forward to final disposition within that 12-month period, a new appraisal would be required.

Step 4. Department provides recommendation of action to State Board of Land Commissioners
The record of decision will provide a recommendation of action for the proposed easement to the State Board of Land Commissioners.

Step 5. The Land Board issues a final decision on the easement application
Because easements are a permanent disposition of land, the Land Board is the legal authority to determine whether the proposed easement is in the best interest of the Trust beneficiary. Any member of the public may appear before the Land Board to advocate for or against any easement proposal when the easement is presented for consideration. The Land Board’s decision on whether to issue or deny the easement is final.

Step 6. Easement payment if easement is issued
If the easement application is approved by the Land Board, an invoice is then issued and a one-time payment is made. At that time, the easement is fully executed and recorded. If the Land Board chooses to not issue the easement or payment is not made, the Department may then consider other proposals for the tract.

Public Involvement

DNRC is soliciting public input on whether to issue the proposed easement application for public park and recreation purposes in compliance with the Montana Environmental Policy Act. Public engagement is important and public comments are the most effective way to provide input. The 30-day comment period pertaining to the easement application opens May 15, 2023, at 8:00 a.m. (MST) with comments accepted until 5:00 p.m. (MST) on June 15, 2023.

Submit Comment

Written comments may be submitted to: DNRC - Helena Unit, Attn: Fox Farm Easement Application Comments, 8001 N. Montana Ave., Helena, MT 59602

Public engagement is important and public comments are the most effective way to provide input. DNRC seeks substantive comments to inform its decision-making. A substantive comment could be one that identifies an issue, alternative, or a resource that should be examined further. DNRC does not base its decisions on a count or tally of how many comments are for or against the project or how many times a certain issue or alternative is brought up.

Application Materials


Application for easement by Cascade County Commissioners.
Application for Easement

Copy of easement application scoping notice.
Scoping Notice


Contact Heidi Crum for questions related to the easement application.