100th Property Conserved

We’ve hit a milestone and we want to share it with you.

In partnership with the Toohey family, we have finalized our 100th conservation easement, protecting 959 acres of prime farmland from subdivision and development.

Most valley residents will recognize the property, located just north of Bozeman off Springhill Rd. The property stretches from wetlands along the East Gallatin River all the way up to mule deer winter range in the Bridger foothills. The property also includes the access road to the popular Middle Cottonwood Trail.

The Toohey family has been farming in the Gallatin Valley since 1876, when the great-grandfather of the current owners emigrated from Ireland. After four generations of farming the land, the family decided that given the rapid development in the area, they wanted to ensure the property could remain in production for future generations.

The conservation easement protects scenic views from some of Bozeman’s most popular roadways and ensures the productive and unique soils, which make it prime for farming, will always be available for agriculture.  Its proximity to other conserved land and the Custer Gallatin National Forest make it a critical piece in an effort to protect elk and deer winter range, as well as other habitat.

But more than anything, the landowners say they’re conserving their land to protect a way a life. “Despite considerable pressures, our family has been able to withstand the temptation for developing that land and has continued to operate the property as a family farm and ranch. We want to be able to preserve this land for generations to come because it represents a way of life that once was common in the Valley, but is unfortunately rapidly disappearing” says Tim Toohey.

Private land conservation in the Gallatin Valley is picking up speed in response to ever-growing development pressure. In many ways the Toohey property is representative of our community’s biggest challenges with growth. What happens to our open land when development reaches farther out into the valley? And what does that mean for agriculture?

We’ve been working with farming and ranching families since 1990 to protect the open spaces and productive soils that have defined this valley for generations. Even with 100 easements totaling over 45,000 acres conserved, there is more work to be done to protect the scenic quality of the landscape, access to local food, and rich agricultural heritage.

The Toohey conservation easement was made possible with funding from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Gallatin County’s Open Space Bond, and Montana Travelers for Open Land. These funding sources allow us to significantly increase the pace of conservation by compensating landowners for a portion of the value of their land. With development pressure growing, and with little money left in the Gallatin County Open Space Bond program, it will be critical to renew the fund to keep pace with development in Gallatin County. The 100th easement is a major milestone but we have work that lies ahead.