Protecting Land Along the Gallatin River

February 17, 2023

Back in 2007, the Kennedy family partnered with Gallatin Valley Land Trust to protect 277 acres of their 337-acre family farm with a conservation easement. Since then, Kevin Kennedy has worked diligently to ensure that the remaining 60 acres of his family farm be protected in perpetuity. We are pleased to announce that earlier this month, after years of hard work and the dedication of the Kennedy family, the original conservation easement was amended to include the additional acreage.

“The Kennedy family feels so strongly about protecting the land,” said GVLT Stewardship Director Jeremy Puckett. “Completing this conservation easement addition was truly an exercise in patience and persistence.”

The highly developable Kennedy Farm is located off what is now Jackrabbit Lane along the Gallatin River. It was homesteaded 142 years ago in 1879 by the Accola and Ketterer families. Kevin Kennedy’s mother, Laura Louise Ketterer Kennedy, received the ranch from her uncle, John Ketterer, in 1958. Kevin’s grandfather, Bert Ketterer, owned a ranch that is across from what is now the Kenyon Noble gravel pit. Just to the south of Kennedy Family Farm, the original Accola homestead cabin still stands.

Throughout the years, the Kennedys – descendants of the Accola/Ketterers – have remained steadfast in their commitment to farming and ranching in the Gallatin Valley. Kevin currently maintains a small herd of horses on his land and leases out production of hay and grain crops in partnership with other local family farms.

The Gallatin River corridor includes some of the richest riverside habitat in the region. Songbirds and waterfowl nest along the river, and many other types of wildlife, including brook trout, brown trout, bald eagle, beaver, great blue heron, sandhill crane, pheasant, moose, elk, whitetail deer, mountain lion, bear, wolves, and coyotes, call this area home. Sadly, this critical habitat is increasingly fragmented as large parcels are subdivided and developed. Ecologists have rated the Gallatin River corridor as one of the most threatened and irreplaceable natural resources in the region.

“The Kennedy conservation easement is a key link in a significant area of conserved habitat along the Gallatin River,” Jeremy said. “The addition of the 60 acres makes for more viable agricultural land and creates a larger buffer of open space and protected land between the wildlife corridor that runs through the Gallatin River bottom and all of the development that is going on along Jackrabbit Lane.”

The Kennedy property also sits near five other conserved properties, immediately to the north that are also right on the river. The combined protected acreage totals over three miles of contiguous conserved riverside habitat between Baxter and Cameron Bridge Road.

In a letter to the Open Lands Board, Kevin Kennedy penned: “Our family would like to see our land preserved in its present natural state for future generations. It was my mother’s wish before she passed away in 2005 to be able to preserve the ranch as it is today. With more farmlands being turned into subdivisions every year, my mother and our family think it is important that there should be land set aside that is left open for not only the wildlife, but for the surrounding areas that are built on to be able to enjoy seeing wildlife and open space. It is my family’s sincere hope that you will chose to protect this piece of the Gallatin River corridor for it scenic, agricultural and wildlife benefits.”

Moving forward, the Kennedys will continue to lease the ground out for agriculture purposes. This property value of the additional 60 acres was largely donated by the Kennedy family, and partially supported by the Gallatin County Open Lands funding. We are so grateful to the Kennedy Family for their dedication to conservation.