Big Sky conservation easement

Admiral William Fallon has placed a conservation easement a 20.5-acre property on Andesite Road preventing the land from being developed.

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BIG SKY — When Admiral William Fallon saw a for sale sign near his home advertising the property as the last great development opportunity in Big Sky, he was so dismayed he decided to purchase the 20.5-acre tract and place it under a conservation easement.

This week, he finalized the easement with the Gallatin Valley Land Trust, ensuring that the densely wooded area on Andesite Road will remain undeveloped.

“I really like the area, I like the outdoors and I’m put off by the continuing development,” Fallon said. “You would think, given the beautiful area between rivers and streams and with the wildlife, there would have been more attention paid to spreading development out or doing less of it.”

The Andesite Road property sits just above the Meadow Village. It’s in a neighborhood with large homes tucked among stands of tall pine stands. On a recent morning, the only activity in the area was construction workers starting their shifts.

Fallon said new construction is happening rapidly and is often of poor quality.

“People just see dollar signs,” he said.

Fallon’s Andesite Road land connects to large tracts of open space, making it important for wildlife like elk, moose and bears, said GVLT Program Manager Brendan Weiner. The easement will conserve wetlands on the property, protecting the water quality of the Middle Fork of the Gallatin River, which runs nearby. A Nordic ski trail runs through the area and will remain accessible with the easement.

The value of Fallon’s conservation easement isn’t known but is likely significant as land in Big Sky is expensive, Weiner said. The area has a handful of other conservation easements, which GVLT and the Montana Land Reliance hold. Gallatin County also has some open space in the vicinity.

“When we visited, we saw how special this place is,” Weiner said.

Thirty years ago, Fallon’s friends in Big Sky urged him to visit. He was in the Navy at the time and traveling the world for work. In 2001, he and his wife finally visited Montana. After 10 days of driving around the state they ended their trip in Big Sky. They loved it.

Six months later, they purchased a condo.

“Big Sky was only a fraction as developed as it is now,” Fallon said. “It was quiet and dark and beautiful, but then, the construction came.”

In 2010, his family purchased a larger home on Pine Cone Terrace, which sits just above the Andesite Road land on which he has placed the easement.

Fallon, who is now retired after 41 years in the Navy, lives in Alexandria, Virginia, for much of the year but comes to Big Sky multiple times annually. His children and grandchildren often join him, spending time hiking, hunting, fishing and skiing.

He and his family particularly enjoy seeing wildlife near their Pine Creek Terrace home and the Andesite Road property. One year, Fallon saw a moose give birth. His grandchildren even built a bench for the bears they often see to sit on, but much to their disappointment they destroyed it while looking for bugs to eat. His grandkids then made a lean-to, but the bears knocked that down too.

“I’d like to do a little bit to preserve what we have,” Fallon said. “We can’t stop the clock, but I’d like to do what we can to preserve the land and be smart with development.”

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Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.

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