Land Trust News

Kelly Kountz Photo / Courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

BRLT, Project Partners Conserve “Best Soils”

      Bitter Root Land Trust, the Sutherlin family, Montana NRCS and the ALE Program, and the Ravalli County Open Land Program have teamed up to conserve 378 acres of “the most productive farmland in the the state.” 

     The Ravalli Republic reports the conservation easement will conserve agricultural lands in the Bitterroot Valley, and fulfill a long-tern dream of rancher Bob Sutherlin.

     From the article: “We wanted to keep it in ag,” Sutherlin said. “It’s all we have ever wanted to do with the ground and don’t want to see anything else done with it.”

     The funds that will offset the value the family gave up by placing an easement on the property will go toward adding additional land in the Bitterroot to raise crops and cattle.

     “We’re going to add to the farm with what we got from the land trust,” Sutherlin said. “We’re not going out and buying a new Cadillac. We’re going to add land to it. We want to farm. He (their son) wants to farm and I have three grandsons who might want to farm too.”     

     The Sutherlin project is another example of BRLT and Ravalli County landowners working with the NRCS and within the Farm Bill’s Agricultural Land Easement program and county open land program. 

    BRLT executive director Gavin Ricklefs said in the article that land preserved by the Sutherlin family is some of the most productive farmland in the state.

      “They are on our best soils,” Ricklefs said. “That area between Corvallis and Stevensville on the Eastside Highway is some of the best ground in the state of Montana.”

Photo Bob Sutherlin; Perry Backus photo

TPL: Swan Valley Great Place for Winter Activities

     In a Jan. 21 eNewsletter The Trust for Public Land offered “eight places to savor the season,” and among the greatly diversified locations was Montana’s Swan Valley. Recommendations for seasonal fun also include Maine, Florida, Arizona, California and Colorado. Here is what the TPL says about the Swan Valley:

     In northwestern Montana, the Swan Valley stretches from the Mission Mountains to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex—an expanse of lakes, ponds, marshes, and streams that together support a riot of wildlife, from mule deer to moose. Come winter, the landscape is swallowed by snow, and another mammal—the sled dog—takes center stage. A number of “mushers” operate businesses in the area, their teams of dogs pulling tourists over miles of terrain. The Trust for Public Land, working with other conservation groups, has protected thousands of acres in and around the Swan Valley. (The effort was part of the 310,000-acre Montana Legacy Project, one of the largest conservation undertakings in American history.) Among the dogsled tour operators in the area is Base Camp Bigfork. [Explore our work in Montana.]

 A teacher leads an after-school class in ecology on a snowshoeing adventure in the Swan Valley, MT.  Photo Credit: © Ted Wood

Conservation Conversation Set for Jan. 25

Curious about conservation? Join Bitter Root Land Trust Stewardship Coordinator Kyle Anderson and Executive Director Gavin Ricklefs on Tuesday, January 25 at 6:00 PM (MST) for a virtual “Conservation Conversation” as they share exciting updates on various BRLT conservation projects, including the C. Ben White Memorial fishing and recreation access site and trail system that is underway on the West Fork of the Bitterroot River.
Click the link below to register.

Peets Hill: Done Deal

     The Bozeman Daily Chronicle stated it clearly and succinctlyIt’s official: 12 acres of Bozeman’s iconic Peets Hill will be preserved as a city park.

      The Peets Hill project demonstrated the remarkable ability of Gallatin Valley Land Trust to act quickly and decisively to mobilize local support and funding to protect one of Bozeman’s most treasured recreational assets. GVLT and its private and public partners were able to secure $1.23 million to finalize the purchase.

     From the Chronicle article: 

     The 12 acres were listed for sale over the summer. The land trust jumped at the chance to preserve the land and submitted an offer to buy it for $1.23 million, which eventually was chosen after a previous offer fell through.

     Then, GVLT started a public fundraising campaign, billing it as a chance to “protect Peets’ final piece.”

     In a matter of weeks, hundreds of people donated to raise $800,000 to help with the sale. The land trust then turned to the city to ask for $485,000 to cover the rest of the costs and an additional $315,000 to be paid over the next two years to cover the cost of trail and land work planned for the parcel.

     “I think the commission believes it’s a really good investment of public dollars and I think that’s because it’s used by so many people and so many visitors,” Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus said. “It’s such a great project and it’s such a good resource, and I just believe the timing was really good … as we’re growing it’s more difficult to acquire land so this was a very good opportunity for the community.”

     Andrus also praised GVLT for getting the deal done. Chet Work, the organization’s executive director, said it was an “honor” to facilitate the deal.

     From a GVLT social media post: We are thrilled to report that as of yesterday afternoon, Peets’ Final Piece is officially protected from the threat of development forever. 

     Thanks to an outpouring of support from nearly 700 donors, GVLT and City of Bozeman purchased the 12 acre parcel at the south end of Peets Hill. We never could have protected this important piece of Bozeman’s most cherished park without your support.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Donates $100,000 to Combat CWD

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a founding member and sponsor of the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, provided $100,000 in grant funding to assist three research projects promoting the scientific understanding of CWD.

“Though some advancements have been made, there are many questions surrounding the causes and spread of chronic wasting disease,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “These studies will help biologists and game managers better develop science-based disease management practices to benefit elk and other wildlife.”

Five Valleys Celebrating 50 Years of Conservation

The organization that is now known as Five Valleys Land Trust started small, with a $100 grant in 1972 to work on a riverfront park concept. Five decades later, Five Valleys is celebrating its 50th anniversary with close to 100,000 acres conserved across ten counties as a western Montana leader in outdoor recreation projects and partnerships.

From a Five Valleys newsletter: We are humbled to be celebrating 50 amazing years of serving our western Montana community. Guided by our 2021-2024 Conservation Initiatives, we continue to deliver on our core work while seeking opportunities to innovate and collaborate in order to meet current and emergent needs throughout western Montana.

There is much to celebrate about our past five decades, and even more to embrace as we enter our next half-century. As 2022 unfolds we look forward to sharing the many ways in which you can join in to celebrate and support the lands you love. Stay tuned!

Congratulations to everyone at Five Valleys Land Trust, and to all who contributed to its ongoing accomplishments.

Five Valleys Land Trust photo

Flathead Land Trust Ends 2021 By Finalizing Conservation Project

Flathead Land Trust ended 2021 on a high note by completing a 39-acre conservation easement south of Columbia Falls near the Flathead River.

“My sister (Diane) and I were thankful to be able to work with Flathead Land Trust in order to place a conservation easement on our land to assure the property will remain agricultural and that the flora and fauna will remain relatively undisturbed into the future,” said property owner Charles Taylor.

The property includes “prime farmland” and “soils of statewide importance” as determined by the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

MT TNC, Five Valleys Do A+ Work on “B Hill”

      Five Valleys Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy in Montana, and Bonner Property Development have teamed up to maintain public access at the B Hill (“B” for Bonner).

     TNC has owned the 104-acre property for 13 years, and the recent conservation project involved TNC selling the 104-acre property to Bonner Property Development. Immediately prior to the sale, TNC placed a conservation and public access easement on the property that is held by Five Valleys. This public access easement represents a new and exciting extension of Five Valleys’ community open space work. Through this easement, Five Valleys will ensure permanent public access and stewardship in partnership with Bonner Property Development. 



Agricultural Conservation Means Open Lands for the Bitterroot

     Bitter Root Land Trust Executive Director Gavin Ricklefs and Bitterroot Star Publisher Michael Howell recently had a discussion about BRLT’s work and the value of open land conservation, and their conversation generated an article about the history of open lands conservation in the Bitterroot Valley titled Big sky and open space – Bitter Root Land Trust key to preserving it.

     The article touches on BRLT’s growth as an organization and its service to the greater Bitterroot Valley, on local landowner stewardship, Farm Bill agricultural easement programs and the NRCS, and perhaps most importantly, the Ravalli County Open Land Program. The article also focuses on the Burnt Fork area of the valley, a focal point in Ravalli County for land conservation. 

     From the article: “We’ve sure been fortunate that so many landowners have made this decision,” said Bitter Root Land Trust Executive Director Gavin Ricklefs while standing on benchland overlooking the Burnt Fork drainage. “The valley’s going to be better for it.”

     The Bitter Root Land Trust has also leveraged a significant amount of federal funding, through the Farm Bill, aimed at preserving family farms, to make the open lands bond fund money go even further. Currently about one quarter of the original $10 million Open Lands Bond remains. 

     “What’s encouraging to me in times like this, especially in these pulses of activity, is how everybody feels it and the sense that we need to act. People really care about this place and it’s independent of politics, tax bracket, or occupation. There is this thing that we all care about so much. We take that awe and respect for what’s all around us and bring it down to the places we’ve got here that connect us to it,” said Ricklefs.