The Gallatin County Commissioners allocated an additional $63,603 to the purchase of two conservation easements on Tuesday, bringing their total contribution to $377,603 for the preservation of 2,100 acres in the eastern part of the county.

The two easements are on the Woosley Ranch and will prevent additional development, limiting land use to grazing, minor timber harvest, grassland restoration and agricultural production. The Woosleys settled in the area in 1885 and are one of the two founding families of Sedan.

“Both of (these properties) are spectacular. … They are just marvelous,” said Commissioner Don Seifert. “I think this is an appropriate use of the (county) funds.”

The new easements will add to large areas already under conservation easement in eastern Gallatin County and are near state trust lands, said Kathryn Kelly, the Greater Yellowstone Manager for the Montana Land Reliance, which works with the county’s open lands program. Adding to the protected land in the area will help preserve wildlife habitat and three tributaries of the Shields River.

The county plans to contribute additional money to the conservation easements to compensate for the increase in the value of the Woosleys’ land since the family originally began working with the county’s open lands program in 2017.

“This situation has become relatively common in Gallatin County in recent years, where the easement value has changed dramatically from the preliminary valuation,” Kelly wrote in a letter to Mike Harris, county conservation and parks director. “This is due to high demand for real estate, very rapid growth and development along with rising land prices in Gallatin County.”

The county’s contribution equals 17.6% of one area’s loss in property value associated with the easement and 12.5% of the loss in property value of the other area. The remaining money for buying the two easements will come from the Woosley family donating property value and from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The county started the open lands program in 2000 with a $10 million voter-approved bond. That bond, as well as an additional bond in 2004 and a 2018 mill levy, have enabled the county to preserve thousands of acres of agricultural land, wildlife habitat, rivers and scenic areas.

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at pstein@dailychronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

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