Permanent trail easement on part of the Bridger Ridge Trail announced

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Posted at 2:46 PM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 12:59:00-05

BOZEMAN - A permanent trail easement on part of the Bridger Ridge Trail which crosses private land was announced Friday afternoon.

According to a press release from Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) the permanent trail easement on a .6 mile-long section of the Bridger Ridge Trail will open the 18.9-mile-long Bridger Ridge Trail.

The trail lies almost entirely on public land managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS). A small but key section of the trail near Mount Baldy crosses private land owned by the Newhall family.

The Newhall family has historically provided public access to the Bridger Ridge Trail since purchasing the property more than 50 years ago. “This trail, in particular, is so important to the Bozeman community, it felt especially important to ensure this access forever; we're all trail users so we recognize the value in trails,” said Katy Kelly, granddaughter of Jay and Jane Newhall who originally purchased the property in 1963.

“As a family, we like to consider ourselves stewards of our land but realistically there may be a day when we aren't in a position to keep it. This easement ensures that if anything happens to us the trail will be protected for future generations. I think my granny Jane would have wanted us to be thinking about the future in this way.”

Eventually, this trail easement will be conveyed to the USFS, where it will be protected and remain open to public access forever. Losing access could have resulted in a challenging and costly reroute as this section of the trail sits on the Bridger ridge spine, surrounded by steep, rocky slopes that are not conducive to trail building.

“The Bridger Ridge Trail is an important community asset with tremendous recreational value,” said GVLT Executive Director Chet Work. “People come from all over the world to compete and play on this trail. The Newhalls have given us a gift that will be forever cherished in our community and beyond.”

The Bridger Ridge Trail is the site of the renowned annual Bridger Ridge Run. Local athletes rallied to support the project. “This is a historic section of trail on the iconic Bridger Ridge,” said Mike Wolfe, founder and head coach of The Mountain Project, and current course record holder for the Run. “This place means so much to our community of athletes, and any Bozemanite who recreates in the Bridgers. It is surely a place – and a trail – worthy of protection for future generations.”

Lead project support came from SITKA, who made a generous gift through the SITKA Ecosystem Grants program. Additional support was provided from the Trom Family, Knoff Group Real Estate, Seessel Family, Bridger Canyon Property Owners’ Association, The Mountain Project, Mystery Ranch, onX, Megyn and William Lansing, Dan Porter and dozens of individual supporters.

This trail easement ensures that the entire Bridger Ridge Trail will remain open and accessible to the public forever. GVLT would like to sincerely thank the Newhall family and the project supporters who made this trail easement possible. Project supporters are invited to a GVLT ribbon-cutting ceremony and trail project workday on the Bridger Ridge Trail that will be scheduled for late spring 2022.

What is a trail easement? A trail easement is a voluntary legal agreement that allows public access across private land within a specified corridor.

What is a conservation easement? The Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) partners with private landowners to conserve working farms and ranches, fish and wildlife habitat, open lands and scenic views through the use of conservation easements, voluntary agreements that limit development on a property while keeping it in private ownership. Each easement is tailored to the specific property and runs with the title of the land in perpetuity. GVLT is responsible for upholding the easement’s terms. Because a conservation easement limits development rights and therefore decreases the value of the land, landowners may be eligible to write off the difference as a charitable donation. In some cases, landowners receive financial compensation for a portion of the value of the conservation easement. The public benefits from the protection of conservation values such as prime agricultural soils, wildlife habitat, river corridors and the overall character of our region.