With Gallatin County’s open space fund nearly tapped, advocates chart a path forward amid growing populations

3/15/2017 Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Troy Carter

With plentiful water nearby and fertile soils beneath their feet, it’s no wonder why settlers chose the Gallatin Valley to start farms and ranches.

The Spanish Peaks tower in the south, the Madison Range to the west, and the Bridger Mountains rise to the north. But now the views are changing, as ranchettes and housing subdivisions spring up all around.

Whether called development or sprawl, it has been consuming irreplaceable farmlands in Gallatin Valley for decades.

On Monday, Paul Oliver pointed out the big homes built on the other side of his family’s place near Gallatin Gateway.

Last week, the county commission approved spending $270,000 from the open space funds for the Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s purchase of an 525-acre conservation easement on a farm Oliver and his two sisters recently inherited. The money amounted to 10 percent of the easement’s total value.

When the easement is finalized and the farm’s development rights are held in trust by GVLT, the county’s $20 million in voter-approved open space bond funds — approved in 2000 and 2004 — will be nearly spent. The money helped fund nearly one-third of the county’s 140 easements, which cover 93,178 acres in the county, according to the National Conservation Easement Database.

“The $20 million is dwindling fast,” said Penelope Pierce, director of GVLT. With that, GVLT wants the program replenished. “What that looks like we don’t know,” she said.

One thing that is known is that the valley’s population is still growing.


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