Over 10,000 Acres in Gallatin Co. Protected (MT)

BOZEMAN, MONTANA, 12/21/04 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) announced today that they have successfully completed the purchase of three separate conservation easements on almost 10,400 acres of prime farm and ranchland, located north of Belgrade. The easements, which have a combined appraised value of just over $9.0 million, were purchased for $3.05 million. Funding for the purchase included $1.8 million from the Gallatin County Open Lands Program and $1.0 million from the Natural Resources Conservation Service through the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program. The remaining balance was funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through a $1.8 million grant that TPL received three years ago as part of the foundation’s Greater Yellowstone Land Protection Initiative.

Most of the acreage that was protected today is located 11 miles north of Belgrade, between the Horseshoe Hills and the Bridger Mountains. A smaller part, totaling almost 400 acres, is located further the south on the north side of the East Gallatin River. The ranch, which is owned by longtime residents Frank, Vera and Robert DeHaan, provides critical habitat for a wide range of animals, including elk, white tail deer, mule deer, mountain lion, fox and sharp-tail grouse. With key stretches of the East Gallatin River and several creeks running through it, the ranch also provides critical spawning ground and brood rearing habitat for rainbow and brown trout as well as a variety of native fish and invertebrate species.

According to Alex Diekmann, TPL’s local project manager, “this easement purchase has it all. Not only are we protecting one of our county’s largest, family-owned ranches, but we are also protecting critical wildlife habitat and scenic values in the process. With development creeping closer every day from nearby Belgrade, it is good to know that this pure slice of our agricultural heritage will be preserved forever.”

Four years ago, voters in fast-growing Gallatin County passed a $10 million bond to protect critical farm and ranchland, wildlife habitat and open space. To date, funding has been committed to 14 separate land conservation projects, of which 9 are now complete. If all of the pending transactions close, more than 25,400 acres or almost 40 square miles of land will have been protected. This remarkable success recently prompted voters to pass a second $10 million bond, with more than 63% saying “yes.”

As Gallatin County Commissioner Bill Murdock put it, “this project is exactly what we had in mind when we put the first bond on the ballot four years ago. It conserves important agricultural, wildlife and scenic values and builds on the investment that we have already made in the nearby Skinner and Brownell properties. It also shows how far we’re stretching our hard-earned dollars. With the county’s $1.8 million investment representing only 20% of the overall value or less than $175 per acre, this project is one of the best values that we’ve ever seen.”

Open Lands Coordinator Mike Harris was excited about the completion of this important project. “This project is a prime example of how we can work with private landowners to conserve land for future generations. It conserves important agricultural and natural resource lands and is a great example of how we can work with private landowners to find proactive solutions that will benefit our community and this great state.”

“Conserving working family farms and ranches is essential to maintaining the Gallatin Valley’s character and quality of life,” said GVLT Executive Director Debbie Deagen. “The DeHaans are the sixth agricultural family we’ve had the opportunity to assist in conserving their family lands through the Gallatin County Open Space Grants Program.”

The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization, conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in communities and to protect our natural and historic resources for future generations. Since 1972, TPL has protected around 2 million acres nationwide with a value of more than $3.8 billion. Projects in Montana include protection of the Taylor Fork drainage south of Big Sky, Lindbergh Lake, the Swan River Valley, Thompson and Fisher River Valleys, waterfowl habitat at the Blasdel National Wildlife Refuge and various working ranches throughout the Gallatin Valley. TPL has offices in Bozeman and Helena and is on the worldwide web at www.tpl.org.

GVLT is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the conservation of open space, agricultural land, wildlife habitat and the creation of public trails in southwestern Montana. Since 1990, GVLT has partnered with 47 families to protect over 14,500 acres in Gallatin, Park, and Madison counties through its conservation easement program. These protected areas include working farms and ranches, scenic views, critical wildlife habitat and urban open space. GVLT also has an active community trails program and is working with volunteers and local organizations to build the twenty-four mile “Main Street to the Mountains” trail system, which will one day connect downtown Bozeman with the Bridger Mountains to the north and the Hyalite Mountains to the south. View GVLT’s programs at www.gvlt.org