What do productive farmland, open space for wildlife, and a big yellow taxi have in common?

For landowners Barry and Paulie Mills, they were all a part of the equation that inspired their decision to work with BRLT to conserve their 71 acres of farmland on Sunset Bench in Stevensville.

In close proximity to many other BRLT-held conservation easements in the area (including Triple D Ranch, Rory R Ranch, Kerslake Ranch, and Haywire Flats), Mills Farm is primarily used for alfalfa and grass hay production and irrigated pasture for cattle and horses.

Paulie’s grandparents, Daizy and Michael Thoft, owned the Bar 24 Ranch across the road, known today as previously mentioned Triple D Ranch. Honoring her family’s legacy in agriculture was important to Paulie and Barry, and they were excited to learn that a portion of the family ranch was conserved in perpetuity when the Triple D conservation easement was completed in partnership with BRLT last year.

“This land makes you really feel something, and every day it just reaffirms for us that protecting it was the right thing to do. We have always loved the Joni Mitchell song, ‘Big Yellow Taxi‘ with lyrics that question paving paradise and putting up a parking lot, and not knowing what you’ve got ’til it’s gone….. It’s such an important thing for people to connect with the outdoors and realize a sense of place. And if we don’t protect the settings that provide that, what will replace that sense of place if we sacrifice the very thing that draws people here?” – Barry and Paulie Mills

While the Sunset Bench area has seen increasing development pressure over the last few decades, BRLT has worked with dozens of families to conserve thousands of additional acres within a couple miles of the farm. The Mills Farm is in close proximity to many agricultural conservation easements, including the previously mentioned contiguous Triple D Ranch (420 acres), Rory R Ranch (1,260 acres), Griffin Ranch (202 acres), Kerslake Ranch (93 acres), and Peckinpaugh’s Lazy Burnt Fork Ranch (333 acres).

Thanks to your support, and critical funding received from the Ravalli County Open Lands Bond and the NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program, Barry and Paulie’s vision has been carried out to forever protect this beautiful Bitterroot Valley landscape for future generations.