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When the snow was deep enough to bury the fence line, Peggy Ring used to ski to a 200-acre chunk of land about three miles south of Big Sky.

“I would take the logging roads to the tree line and ski down,” she said. “We could get 80 to 90 telemark turns down to Beaver Creek.”

Peggy would ski around lots of properties in Big Sky back when she and Harry Ring, her husband, moved to the town in the 1960s. It was how she knew that land along Beaver Creek was special.

With views of Wilson Peak and Beehive Basin, the 200 acres are a refuge for a host of wildlife, including elk, deer, bears, coyotes and an occasional moose. There are aspen groves, conifer forests and several springs that bubble out of a hillside. Beaver Creek flows through a portion of the land.

While Harry was on a commercial fishing trip, Peggy wrote to him to tell him about the parcel. The Rings bought it shortly afterward with help from Jerry Pape, a local realtor who lived just down the road, Peggy said.

A few decades have passed, and Peggy and Harry are taking steps to make sure that special piece of land stays protected, especially as development pressure ramps up around Big Sky. Harry and Peggy signed a conservation easement this month with the Gallatin Valley Land Trust.

The voluntary agreement limits future development on the Beaver Creek property, ensuring its views, water resources and wildlife habitat remain protected. Landowners who sign on get a tax benefit, and the public gets more open spaces.

“We’re just glad that we had the opportunity to give that to the animals,” Peggy said. “I feel sorry for the whole Gallatin Valley and what’s happening to our beautiful state.”

In addition to protecting wildlife, the Rings want to make sure their land is managed in a way that provides people with great access to skiing and horseback riding. It’s becoming harder for people to park horse trailers at crowded trailheads, Peggy said.

A local skiing pioneer, Peggy was one of the first people to ever descend the Big Couloir — a famed 50-degree triple black diamond run that starts near the top of the Lone Peak Tram. Harry owned and operated Lone Mountain Sports — the resort’s original ski and rental shop.

Chad Klinkenborg, GVLT’s lands program manager, said the Rings’ conservation easement is the 120th completed with the land trust. Staff at GVLT have now conserved more than 51,100 acres through easements.

The easement means wildlife will get a sanctuary in an area that’s just starting to experience fragmentation. The Rings’ property is scenic, and leaving its bare hillsides free of houses will protect an important viewshed of the Spanish Peaks, according to Klinkenborg.

Peggy and Harry also made a sizable donation to the land trust’s Stewardship Fund, which goes toward monitoring and maintenance, he said.

“We are just very grateful to the Rings for their contribution to conserving natural resources and wildlife habitat in Gallatin County,” Klinkenborg said. “Their love for the land is undeniable, and we’re lucky to work with people like that.”

The Pessl family owns land adjacent to the Rings’ property, and they closed their own conservation easement with the land trust in 2007. That means the land trust is getting closer to securing a continuous wildlife corridor through the Beaver Creek drainage.

“It’s an exciting milestone for GVLT,” Klinkenborg said. “We certainly are celebrating the success, but we’re also laser-focused on the work that remains to be done in our area.”

In light of the pace of growth around Big Sky, GVLT is keeping its eyes on the area, but it’s a difficult environment to work in due to high development value, Klinkenborg said.

“There are a lot of natural resource concerns with developing in that area, but with big parcels and big houses, the appetite is there,” he said. “We feel easements are a great tool to protect the area in a way that’s not forcing zoning on people.”

Peggy said members of the Pessl family were instrumental in guiding the Ring family through the conservation easement process, as was Tutti Skaar, who served on the Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s board.

“We’re just happy GVLT is here,” Harry said in a news release. “Keep up the good work.”

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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