GVLT looks to further maintain community’s character

7/11/2020 Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Guest Columnist Chet Work, GVLT Executive Director

Moving to a new community is always challenging, but the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly made it more so. It has occupied my family’s every thought, night and day, for the past few months. When I accepted the job as the new executive director for the Gallatin Valley Land Trust in late February, I could not have anticipated the transition would look this way. But despite the difficulties, moving to Bozeman at this time seems less like a risk and more like an opportunity.

Newspaper articles and stories from all over the state suggest that many families are recognizing this opportunity. The quality of life in Montana and Bozeman in particular seems to attract folks from all over the country and at all stages of life, now more than ever. This realization gives me confidence that my family is making the right decision to move, and it also emphasizes that my new role at the helm of GVLT is going to be an important one.

As many of you know, for the past 30 years, GVLT and its partners have conserved the open lands that define the landscape around Bozeman and its neighboring communities, securing agricultural land and wildlife habitat, while at the same time, working to connect Main Street to the mountains with safe, connected recreational trails. Thanks to the investment and support of the community, GVLT has earned national recognition for its unique ability to balance both trails for our community as well as conservation of our scenic, agricultural and habitat resources. For years I have been admiring GVLT from afar as I worked with other land trusts in the West.

Bozeman has been growing at breakneck speed for the 20 years that I have been in and around the Yellowstone region. To see this growth actually accelerate during a pandemic further emphasizes the need for proactive conservation of the places that make the region so special. My family was drawn to Bozeman for the outdoor recreation, the rivers, mountains and trails, but also the productive agricultural land, habitat for big game and the proximity to Yellowstone. I’m grateful that my children will get to grow up in such a wild, beautiful place. That’s how children should get to grow up.

The work to protect the special qualities of the Gallatin Valley is a task for all of us. It is incumbent on us all, newcomers included, to commit to protecting the places that make us brought us here, and keep us here. GVLT’s approach to conservation has always brought the community together, and at a time when most of the news stories are polarizing, we should embrace the elements of our community that unite us. Now, more than ever, this work is needed. GVLT is currently working on more than a dozen conservation and trail projects across the region. Each will help to maintain the character of our community.

I am looking forward to working together with you all to build on GVLT’s strong reputation and track record. Standing on the shoulders of my dear friend and former executive director Penelope Pierce, I hope to bring a fresh perspective and vision to this critical work. It is our job, together, to protect what we have for the next generation. I know I have much to learn, but I’m confident that we can harness the opportunities that growth presents. I’ll need your help, your ideas and your investment to make this a reality. Thank you for welcoming my family into your home. Now let’s get to work.

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