Touring the Pessl Conservation Easement with the GVLT Conservators Circle

April 14, 2022

GVLT supporters huddle around apple turnovers and coffee in the small homesteader cabin on the Pessl easement as the wood stove merrily crackles. Our host, Erich Pessl shares that “depending on the storyteller, the early homesteaders of this property lived in this cabin with anywhere between 5 and 11 children.” We let his words sink in as we look around at a building that can’t be more than 320 square feet. What feels cozy now certainly might have felt claustrophobic 100 years ago. The cabin itself is a living history museum, the walls paying homage to earlier times with antique wooden snowshoes hanging near the window and an ancient canoe tucked into the rafters.

We’ve convened at the Pessl’s stunning 200-acre conservation easement on a bluebird day with 22 Conservators Circle supporters to tour the property on ski as we meet like-minded lovers of trails and conservation. Each GVLT conservation easement is unique, and the Pessl Easement is no exception. True to their Austrian roots, the Pessls have groomed a network of Nordic ski trails throughout the property.

Properly fortified with sweet treats and caffeine (a mainstay of every Conservators Circle outing), we click into our bindings and hit the trails. We are led by siblings Erich and Liesl Pessl, grandchildren of Freddie Pessl who purchased the property in 1959. Our tour leads us to a breathtaking high point where GVLT Land Steward Cole Herdman points out the recently conserved Ring Conservation Easement to the south. Elk tracks crisscross the hills in the distance and the trail in front of us, providing evidence of this property’s value as quality winter range habitat. Those needing further convincing can simply glass the south-facing hills on the property and it won’t be long until a white rump fills their field of vision.

The ski is punctuated with laughs, stories of new connections being forged, and at least one yard-sale resulting from a skier veering from the groomed path into the soft snow on the trail’s shoulder. Sun-kissed and tired, we gather back at the homesteader’s cabin. Erich and Liesl share that their relatives initially questioned the idea of a conservation easement, not because they didn’t want to see their land permanently protected, but because they couldn’t imagine a future in which development pressure south of Big Sky would threaten a property like theirs. We applaud the Pessls for their foresight and decision to protect their land, which will live on in perpetuity as a living legacy to a simpler time when the only human presence on the land was a husband, wife, and somewhere between 5 and 11 children.

The GVLT Conservators Circle is composed of those supporters that donate $1,000 or more to GVLT each year. More importantly, the Conservators Circle is made up of individuals that wish to see our open spaces protected and our trails system enhanced for future generations.

To join the Conservators Circle, you can donate online with a one time gift or a recurring monthly donation of just $83/month. To learn more, contact Justin Barth, GVLT’s Director of Development at