GVLT purchases property in West Bridgers to protect trail and habitat


In April, GVLT completed an exciting new project that combined trails, conservation, and access to public lands for our bustling community. With the help of several diverse community partners,we purchased a 160-acre property in Middle Cottonwood Canyon from the Skogen family. By purchasing the property, we’ve permanently protected the trail corridor and surrounding wildlife habitat from development forever. The scenic property is located in the West Bridger Mountains, approximately six miles northeast of Bozeman. The entire parcel is mapped as critical winter range for elk and mule deer by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and features diverse wildlife habitat. The property also contains the popular Middle Cottonwood Trail which crosses the property for a half-mile. Purchasing the property secures perpetual public access to the trail and surrounding public lands, and will provide new hunting and recreational activities to the community. We plan to transfer the property to the care of the United States Forest Service,  which already manages the Middle Cottonwood Trail and the surrounding lands.

“This property is a gem and is a tremendous resource for the community. It took a willing and dedicated land owner committed to conservation to get this done,” said Brendan Weiner, Program Director at GVLT. The property appraised for $752,000 and the landowner – Michael Skogen – donated over half of the property value towards the project.

The remaining funding came from a pool of private donors, grants, and support from local businesses focused on outdoor recreation, as well as $80,000 from GVLT’s own acquisition fund. GVLT has been interested in conserving this property for 10+ years, and began negotiations with the Skogen family two years ago when they listed the property for sale.

The community will now have public access to all 160 acres of the highly scenic parcel, where trail users have spotted an array of wildlife including mule deer, elk, moose, mountain goats, and eagles. A pristine, spring-fed creek flows through the property to Middle Cottonwood Creek, surrounded by aspen groves and mature forests. Previous development proposals for the property have recommended moving the trail, but this purchase permanently removes the threat of development.

“Development of the property would result in significant negative impacts to the trail corridor and the surrounding habitat and would dramatically change the trail user experience,” said Weiner. “We are thrilled to have the acquisition complete.”

GVLT will manage the property until it is donated to the USFS, which could take up to four years.

THANK YOU to the generous businesses, organizations and individuals who financially supported this project.  Skogen Family, Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Cross Charitable Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, SITKA Gear, Cinnabar Foundation, onX, Travelers for Open Land, The Ott Family, Lisa and Keith Reed, Kainz Family Foundation, Margaret and Ken Emerson, Pope & Young Club, Liza and Cody Abbott, Mara and Thomas Lehrman, Zaniboni Lighting, Cathy Costakis, Alan Larson, and Caroline and Will Price