Long days, and even longer nights on their dairy farm in southern Idaho, didn’t stop Doug and Janis Astle from pursuing their dream to ranch in the Bitterroot. In fact, it fueled their desire to one day work the land here.

If you asked the Astle’s, they’d say they’re like anyone else, just living life, taking one day at a time. But their story is anything but mundane.

Many years ago, Doug and Janis traveled each year to western Montana for their sons’ football clinic. What started as a visit of necessity, turned out to be something they looked forward to every spring.

Struck by the rugged beauty of the mountains and the river, they made it their goal to ranch here one day. Janis’ eyes twinkled with the memories of those visits, “We just fell in love with this place, the Bitterroot Valley.”

A Harsh Reality

The reality is, it’s not easy to find large tracts of land for farming and ranching in the valley.

The average parcel size in the valley is 10 acres. That makes it difficult for farmers and ranchers, especially the next generation, to start and expand their own ag operation.

The good news is, conservation is making a difference.

This momentum in the Bitterroot, particularly the Burnt Fork area, is making it possible for farm and ranch lands to stay in tact and thrive. That’s exactly what drew Doug and Janis here, to continue ranching and ultimately to conserve their ranch.

Doug adds, “I know what it took for us to get this land. So I think, oh my gosh, there’s other folks like us–where in heavens are they going to find this? Land that’s not broken up?”

The Astles were given a warm welcome by neighbors and other ranchers, like Jim and Sharon Schroeder.

Sharon recalls, “When we talked with them about our conservation easement, and how they could become part of that community, they were intrigued to hear more. It is comforting to know that the ground you love and nurture will be preserved in perpetuity and that you are making the right decision for future generations. We are thankful we live in a neighborhood where we share that value of preserving agricultural lands and are grateful to the Astles for joining the Burnt Fork community.”

Without A Doubt

There’s no doubt Doug and Janis believe they made the right decision, “We were drawn to this valley by the incredible beauty, and especially to the ag lands. What sealed the deal though, were the people. They were all so good to us. So this–conserving this ranch–is how we can give back.”

The Astles are thinking long-term about who will need this land in the future.

“There’s always someone that needs a little space to have cows or whatever they’d want to farm. And if we don’t set some of this aside in this valley, that opportunity will disappear faster than we might realize.”

Thanks to the Astles, and thanks to you, we can set some land aside for the future. The next generation farmer or rancher will have the opportunity and freedom to work the land, raise cows, or grow crops.