Alaska Ranch Forever Protected

October 30, 2023

GVLT is excited to announce the completion of the Alaska Ranch conservation easement near the town of Twin Bridges in Madison County. GVLT partnered with landowners Shawn and Allison Wentzel to establish the easement, forever protecting productive agricultural rangeland, scenic open space, and exceptional wildlife habitat.

The conservation easement, which encompasses 2,375 acres on the western slope of the Tobacco Roots Mountains, is home to Wentzel Apiaries, the family’s third-generation beekeeping and honey production business. To support the apiary, the Wentzels and their two sons farm sainfoin, known for its ability to produce superior quality honey, on the irrigated portions of the ranch. After the sainfoin is pollinated by the bees, it is hayed and used as feed for their cattle, as well as horses boarded on the property in the winter for local outfitters.

Alaska Ranch, named for its harsh winters, was originally pieced together in 1875 by Elijah M. Pollinger, who purchased the land from several homesteaders in the area. He constructed a widely used stage stop that doubled as a schoolhouse for the nearby Bear Gulch Mining Camp. Subsequent owners parceled off pieces of the property before the Wentzels purchased the property with a goal to “keep the ranch together.”

“It’s an important and special place that should never be chunked off,” said Allison.

Seeking to always keep the ranch intact, the Wentzels chose a conservation easement as a tool to protect their land from future fragmentation and development. A conservation easement, GVLT’s primary tool for conservation, is a voluntary legal agreement between GVLT and the landowner that limits development on the property in perpetuity, keeping the landscape open and scenic forever.

“Both of our sons are interested in farming,” explains Allison. “The conservation easement ensures they have the opportunity to continue to farm this land.”

Adjacent to public lands, the Alaska Ranch conservation easement also increases the network of conserved lands in this region, preserving the scenic rural feel of Madison County and its natural wildlife habitat.

“In addition to the productive agricultural and native rangeland, Alaska Ranch sees a tremendous diversity of wildlife,” explains Cole Herdman, GVLT’s Conservation Program Manager. “Alaska Ranch is a remarkable property and the Wentzel family works hard to steward it. We are grateful for their commitment to conservation and to the funding partners that made this project happen.”

GVLT secured funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Heart of the Rockies’ Keep it Connected program to support the purchase of this easement.

Alaska Ranch represents GVLT’s 127th easement, bringing our total land conserved across our service area in Gallatin, Park, and Madison counties to more than 65,000 acres.