Blue skies overhead, and the perfume of blooming sagebrush still in the air. Views in every direction. The bench we were standing on is perched just to the south of the Burnt Fork drainage, where more than 7,000 acres of working lands have been conserved over the last decade.

Megan Hanson and Mike Sylvester in Stevensville, Sunset Bench

Mike Sylvester and Meghan Hanson look around at the ground they recently protected, and think about what might have been. This 200 acre piece of land was ripe for development. It was subdivided and complete with septic, wells, and underground electrical.

“This is the right thing to do,” Mike smiled and took a deep breath. “Other parts of the country have already changed so much. To have these open spaces is amazing.”

Mike and Meghan saw a brighter, more open future for the land. Many neighborhoods in the valley still have open lands around them. And this was one of those special pockets that could either be kept intact, or become part of expanding changes to the land.

It’s Working

“It’s a secluded haven for wildlife like turkeys, eagles, and deer in the sagebrush and ponderosa pine forest on Sunset Bench,” says Mike. Some white-tailed deer on the ridge grab their attention for a moment.

Conservation has made the difference here. What could have been a dramatic shift to the character of the Burnt Fork and Sunset Bench, has been saved for the next generation. This landowner-driven tool, the conservation easement, is keeping land and our Bitterroot way of life intact.

“We feel fortunate to have the option to have this choice.” Mike continues, “The decision was clear, these are special places. They’re not making anymore of these.”

Mike looks into Meghan’s eyes and says,

“My hope is that this inspires more conservation and more landowners.”

Caring supporters like you and passionate landowners like the Mike and Meghan, are why conservation can be a solution, safeguarding the character and integrity of the Bitterroot Valley.

Thanks to you, it’s working.