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At the end of a dirt road in Gallatin Gateway sits a yellow house with green trim and several old wooden buildings, some of which were constructed when the property was first homesteaded.

Sydney Kurland purchased the place in the 1960s and spent years enjoying the solitude and watching the wildlife that passed by. When he died in 2010, he left the property to his best friend, Emily Gadd, who is now donating a conservation easement for it to the Gallatin Valley Land Trust.

“I feel like I’m honoring his idea of what he wanted this place to be,” Gadd said. “He always wanted to do an easement. He wouldn’t have wanted to see this place developed like all the other places around here.”

Kurland was born in Brooklyn, New York, to parents who had emigrated from Russia. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brooklyn College before moving to Bozeman in 1964 to teach painting, graphics and drawing at Montana State University. A few years later, he left to earn a doctorate in comparative arts at Ohio University.

There, he met Gadd. When he returned to MSU to teach art history, she joined him. They lived on the Gallatin Gateway land together for six years. Gadd eventually moved to Bozeman but often visited Kurland at the 30-acre property, which extends north from Lynde Street along the Gallatin River.

“I liked the quiet,” she said. “You could just sit in a hammock and listen to the river. It was a special place, and I’d hate to see it change.”

Kurland turned one of the buildings into a studio. There, he worked on dozens of paintings, including some of his property. The studio is now mostly vacant but has a painting propped against the sink and a few sketches tacked to the wall.

He also built a kiln with the help of others at MSU. Ceramic test tiles still sit in a wooden box near the driveway and a few bricks lay scattered in the yard.

Since Kurland’s death, Gadd has rented the property and let a few horses graze there. She’s now placing a conservation easement on it because she’s planning to sell it. She hopes the buyer repairs the fences and fixes up the old buildings.

“The beauty of this place is it’s at the end of a dirt road, it’s really private and it’s right on the river,” she said. “We need to protect these places, and I wish more people would think about conservation because God knows this place is getting chopped up.”

Gadd is now having the land appraised as part of the easement process, so she doesn’t know the value of the donation she’s making to the Gallatin Valley Land Trust. For her, the donation isn’t about money but about leaving the property as Kurland wanted it.

The land trust occasionally receives donations like Gadd’s and has worked on dozens of conservation easements in Gallatin County, protecting thousands of acres, said Chad Klinkenborg, lands project manager.

“Gallatin County is rapidly growing and experiencing urban sprawl, so having people like Emily (Gadd) place conservation easements on their land protects agricultural areas, preserves wildlife and maintains important migration corridors,” he said. “It is also an opportunity for landowners to preserve what they love about their property forever.”

Although the easement is a donation, state law requires it to go before the county commission and the public for review. At a meeting on Tuesday, the commissioners expressed appreciation for Gadd’s donation.

“It’s a remarkable piece of ground and to be able to put an easement on it to protect it is a wonderful thing for wildlife and for the people in the area,” said Commissioner Don Seifert.

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

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