The Future of Land Conservation at GVLT

August 11, 2021

Conserving the last best place despite rapid population growth and development is no easy feat. Not only does it require significant resources, it requires strategic decision making about how and where we can have the most impact. For GVLT, land conservation is strategic. Together, more than 100 families, we have conserved over 50,000 acres of productive river bottoms, prime agricultural lands, critical wildlife corridors, elk-filled forests, and rolling foothill meadows.

Our next 50,000 acres will build on this conservation success. We are in the process of updating our strategic land conservation plan which will use several data points to determine where we can have the most conservation impact. With rigorous science and trusting relationships, we’ll double down on our efforts to conserve wildlife habitat and farmland with an emerging focus on community conservation, incorporating public recreation and other community needs.

Protecting wildlife corridors that are home to some of our region’s most iconic species remains at the forefront of our mission. Rapid development shows no signs of slowing, but the wildlife of our region should always be able to roam freely and safely, from the gates of Yellowstone National Park to the Missouri Headwaters. Our conservation partnerships in key areas such as Bozeman Pass limit sprawl and prevent residential development from impacting the animals that call this place home. This strategic conservation focus works to provide uninterrupted movement for wildlife.  We still have opportunities in the Bozeman Pass area and other high quality wildlife habitat throughout our service area.

Just as we will focus on adding acreage and impact to areas where we’ve seen habitat conservation success over the last 30 years, we will also continue piecing together large contiguous blocks of farm and ranchland. The Gallatin, Paradise, and Shields Valleys are home to some of the most productive soils in the state, and as we look to future conservation  projects, we envision large blocks of farmland, protected and remaining in agricultural production forever. We’ve already begun targeting areas like Amsterdam-Churchill and Southwestern Bozeman around Gooch Hill Road, where adjacent easements form blocks of protected farmland ranging from 1,000 acres to nearly 9,000 acres. Cattle and tractors have the right-of-way in these agricultural neighborhoods, without worry of conflict with nearby subdivisions or apartment complexes.

Finally, we consider GVLT to be a community resource, and we look forward to completing conservation projects that protect additional community values. We believe there are ways we can use our tools to be responsive to our community’s shifting needs. Within the last few years, you’ve seen more and more projects that blend our dual mission of trails and conservation as we strive to find a balance between conserving special places and providing opportunities for people to explore outdoors.  We are continually asking ourselves, ‘how can we as an organization be responsive to our what our community needs?’ For example, when we saw an opportunity to expand Bozeman Pond Park we worked the community to swiftly acquire a parcel of private land, expand a park on the quickly growing west side of town. We helped build an off-leash dog park, develop trails that serve as “Safe Routes to School”, and create a new site for HAVEN’s Domestic Violence Community Campus. You’ll see more of these types of innovative partnership projects from GVLT in the coming years.

That’s where you come in. Our strategy requires resources. Your support is critical to achieving all that we’ve envisioned together. We must accelerate the pace of our work to match that of development. All of us at GVLT still believe strongly that this beautiful valley is worth fighting for, and we know that you do too. We hope you will join us in our march to the next 50,000 acres.