A Small Easement on a Mighty Trail
February 18, 2022
Photo by Erik Bendick
GVLT is thrilled to announce the purchase of a trail easement on a section of the Bridger Ridge Trail (BRT) on the south end of the Bridgers. The BRT passes through a rugged stretch of mountains well-known for their tremendous recreational value and sits almost entirely on public land managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS). An important .6 mile section of the trail crosses private land, owned by the Newhall family.
The Newhall family purchased their Bridger Mountain property in 1963 and used it as a summer pasture for cattle. Though their property is intersected by the BRT, they have historically allowed public access to the .6 mile section of trail that crosses their land.
“This trail in particular is so important to the Bozeman community that it felt especially important to share,” said Newhall family member Katy Kelly. “As a family we like to consider ourselves stewards to our land but realistically, there may be a day when we aren’t in a position to keep the land.”
This growing concern led the Newhalls to connect with GVLT to discuss the potential of protecting the property with a conservation easement. GVLT Lands Program Manager Chad Klinkenborg began working with the Newhall family on permanent protection for their property and the trail in 2019, but plans for the conservation easement were put on hold when the entire property was burned in the Bridger Foothills Fire of 2020.
“Chad was very instrumental, and patient,” Katy said. “We started talking more seriously about this right before the Bridger Foothills Fire and then as a family really had to take a step back to deal with the aftermath of the fire. Chad gave us the space to do that while still helping us move forward with the trail easement.”
Once the Newhalls agreed to move forward with a trail easement, GVLT turned to community partners to fund the project. Lead project support came from SITKA who made a generous gift through the SITKA Ecosystem Grants program. Additional support was provided from the Trom Family, Knoff Group Real Estate, Seessel Family, Bridger Canyon Property Owners’ Association, The Mountain Project, Mystery Ranch, onX, Megyn and William Lansing, Dan Porter, and dozens of individual supporters.
The BRT is the site of the renowned annual Bridger Ridge Run, and local athletes rallied support for the project. “This is a historic section of trail on the iconic Bridger Ridge,” said Mike Wolfe, founder and head coach of The Mountain Project. “This place means so much to our community of athletes, and any Bozemanite who recreates in the Bridgers. It is surely a place – and a trail – worthy of protection for future generations.”
GVLT currently owns the trail easement but is working to convey it to the USFS where it will remain in public ownership and be protected for public access forever. The trail easement consists of a 20’ right of way, 10’ on either side of the existing trail, which equates to 1.5 total acres through the Newhall family’s private property. Without securing this easement, future access could be eliminated on the private property and the trail could be forcibly rerouted off the Bridger ridge spine onto the challenging downhill slopes that are not conducive for trail building.
GVLT would like to sincerely thank the Newhall family and the project supporters who made this trail easement possible. Project supporters are invited to a GVLT ribbon cutting ceremony and trail project workday on the BRT that will be scheduled for late spring 2022.
“This easement ensures that if anything happens to us, the trail will be protected for future generations,” said Katy. “I think my granny Jane would have wanted us to be thinking about the future in this way.”