The closing of 2023 brought another reason to celebrate a year of successful land conservation efforts for the Gallatin Valley Land Trust.
In cooperation with generous landowners, GVLT closed their 128th conservation easement on a 407-acre property located along the Jefferson River west of Three Forks.
In a release, the GVLT said they are grateful to the family who chose to forever conserve their productive agricultural land that will continue to produce grass hay, alfalfa, and sainfoin. The property's mosaic of wetlands, riverside plant life, and open hay meadows also provides critical habitat for the area's wildlife population, including moose, Whitetail deer, mountain lions, and bobcats.
By limiting development on this riverside property, the landowners are ensuring the water remains healthy for trout and the important cottonwood forests found along the river are preserved. Native cottonwoods provide habitat for more than half the bird species in Montana, while hundreds of thousands of spring and fall migrating birds seek these riverside corridors for food and shelter, according to Montana Audubon. The land provides secure habitat for species including bald and golden eagles, great blue herons, hawks, owls, sandhill cranes, migratory waterfowl, and shorebirds.
Anglers and boaters will also continue to enjoy the open scenic views that characterize this picturesque stretch of the Jefferson.
"A conservation easement along the Jefferson River is very exciting because it will only increase its ecological and community benefits, such as clean water, jobs, scenic views, and flood protection," explains Crystal Beckman, GVLT Conservation Program Manager. "We are honored to help this family realize their vision of forever protecting these resources."
The costs of this easement, along with the value of the easement itself, were completely donated by the generous landowners.
Thanks to landowner partners, GVLT established an additional 13,716 acres in conservation easements in 2023. Throughout the past 33 years, we have worked with 128 families to forever conserve more than 65,000 acres of some of the most highly productive, scenic, and wildlife-rich lands in southwest Montana.