Arthur Blank is most widely known as the cofounder of Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons. However, he’s also a philanthropist whose Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has donated more than $1 billion since its inception in 1995, including more than $28 million in grants to community organizations in Montana.
On April 19, 2023, Blank signed off on the largest conservation easement to date in Paradise Valley just north of Yellowstone National Park in Southwest Montana. Established in partnership with the Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT), this easement will permanently protect his 8,800-acre Paradise Valley Ranch by limiting residential and commercial development while still allowing agriculture and outdoor recreation to continue.
Commitment to Paradise Valley
This isn’t Blank’s first rodeo; in fact it’s his third property in Montana with a conservation easement. In 2001, when Blank purchased the 17,000-acre Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, also in Paradise Valley, he recalled “falling in love with the land, the people, and the wildlife during many memorable vacations …”
This was the first of many he’d go on to buy in that area. “Any time we’ve been able to acquire property adjacent to the ranch, we’ve taken advantage of that,” he said. Most notably, he bought the 6,300-acre West Creek Ranch in 2017, and Paradise Valley Ranch in 2020.
“Paradise Valley Ranch is not only a stunning property in the heart of Paradise Valley, it also provides critical wildlife habitat and is rich in agricultural opportunities,” Blank said in a recent press release. “It was very important to us when we purchased PVR that the land was conserved and managed in a thoughtful, responsible way and could serve as a resource for the community. We are proud to have partnered with GVLT to finalize a conservation easement ensuring that the natural beauty, ecosystem, and native landscape that makes the ranch so special will be preserved in perpetuity.”
Soon after buying Paradise Valley Ranch, a community elk hunting program was established, providing hunting access each fall with the goal of promoting conservation efforts there. The foundation’s Western branch, AMB West, worked with local and regional directors of the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the game warden, and local biologists to structure the free lottery program for lead-free hunts. A weather station on Paradise Valley Ranch also collects fine-scale climate monitoring data, which helps local ranchers plan for drought and other extreme conditions.
Robust Environmental Partnerships
Over the years, Blank’s foundation has invested in a number of environmental initiatives ranging from clean water to the protection of green space and wildlife habitat. “As I look at the futures for my children and grandchildren, I can’t turn my back on the evidence and the projections of all the professionals who do understand the fragile nature of our planet and our impact on it,” he said in 2011, after being celebrated with the “Distinguished Conservationist” award by the Georgia Conservancy. More recently, in addition to the conservation easement, the foundation has focused on clean energy, donating $9.25 million to the Energy Foundation’s efforts to inform policy makers about its benefits.
GVLT — a Bozeman, Montana-based non-profit that focuses on preserving open land and building trails — partners with private landowners to conserve working farms and ranches, fish and wildlife habitat, open lands, and scenic views. The organization has been working in Park County, where Blank’s ranches are located, for more than 20 years and currently holds 16 conservation easements in that area and more than 100 across southwest Montana.
After signing off on the Paradise Valley Ranch conservation easement, Blank donated the financial value that comes along with it to GVLT. In addition, his foundation has also developed public and private funding sources, allowing the organization to purchase conservation easements from interested landowners and enabling a greater number of landowners to utilize this tool.
Montana’s population has steadily increased recently, a trend that accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. “With the increasing rate of growth and development in the valley, we are grateful to Mr. Blank for ensuring this iconic ranch stays open forever,” said GVLT Conservation Director Brendan Weiner. “With over 40 existing parcels, this spectacular property could have been easily subdivided and developed, but the conservation easement ensures it will stay whole.”