The Gallatin Valley Land Trust last week issued a statement calling 2009 "one of the most successful years of land conservation in its 20-year history."

With the help of Gallatin County's Open Lands Board, which recommends spending of public bonds to acquire conservation easements, as well as other tools, the Gallatin Valley Land Trust in 2009 acquired conservation easements on more than 3,200 acres in Gallatin County, it said. That land was owned by nine families.

"Since its founding in 1990, GVLT has partnered with 84 families to permanently conserve over 56 square miles of working farms and ranches, scenic open land and wildlife habitat in Gallatin Valley and the surrounding communities," the organization said.

Following is a brief description of 2009 projects.

- Kimm Potato Farm: Located in the heart of the Gallatin Valley, 808 acres of prime farmland are now protected under a set of three conservation easements. Owned and operated by the Kimm family since the 19th century, the Kimm Potato Farm employs innovative, sustainable farming techniques. This project was completed in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Gallatin County Open Lands program.

- Coker property: The Coker family generously donated a 130-acre conservation easement in Bridger Canyon over critical elk winter range within an important wildlife movement corridor. It also contains a wetland associated with a spring creek and ponds, native forest and a scenic ridgeline visible from Bridger Canyon Road.

- Sorenson Beacon Hill: This 200-acre property sits at the top of Bozeman Pass in the center of one of the Northern Rockies' most imperiled wildlife corridors. The Sorenson family has owned the property for over a century and their conservation easement will permanently protect habitat for wide-ranging wildlife species. This project was completed with funding from Gallatin County Open Lands program.

- Bos Dairy Farm: This iconic 250-acre property includes pasture, cultivated fields and wetland on Cottonwood Road south of Bozeman. It provides habitat for elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer and sandhill cranes just north of national forestland in the Gallatin Range. Gallatin County Open Lands funds helped underwrite this project.

- Buck/Butterfield Farm: Where Cottonwood Road reaches the foothills of the Gallatin Range, this 330-acre farm connects the Bos Dairy Farm and the previously protected Wolny property, making 1200 acres of contiguous conserved land extending more than 2 miles north from Gallatin National Forest. This is a landmark property to those traveling to the South Cottonwood Creek trailhead, featuring the historic barn along Cottonwood Road. Gallatin County Open Lands funds helped underwrite this project.

- Alberda/Leep Family Farm: Owned by the Alberda and Leep families since the late 19th century, this 418-acre farm is located just south of the Amsterdam-Churchill communities. Thanks to this family's commitment to conservation, we've now linked the already-protected Visser and Sinnema-Flikkema farms to create a 2600-acre block of contiguous conserved agricultural land in the heart of the Gallatin Valley. This block adjoins the enormous 110,000-acre Flying D Ranch to the south, protected by The Nature Conservancy. Gallatin County Open Lands funds helped underwrite this project.

- Half Circle Ranch: The 400-acre Half Circle Ranch is home to an organic beef operation in the western foothills of the Bridger Mountains, just 15 miles north of Bozeman. Thanks to the generosity of landowner Harry Armstrong, this property provides public access for hunting and trail access to the North Cottonwood Trail accessible from Rocky Mountain Road, about 3 miles north of Springhill Road. This complex project was made possible through partnership with the Trust for Public Land, the Montana Land Reliance, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Gallatin National Forest, and Gallatin County.

- Legacy Ranch: Located in the spectacular Paradise Valley, this 591-acre ranch contains 2.5 miles of Yellowstone River frontage. It joins six other properties along this legendary river that have been conserved by families in partnership with GVLT. Special thanks to Tim Solso and the Legacy Ranch Corporation for donating this significant conservation gift.

- Owen property: Just off Hyalite Creek in the Gooch Hill area are nestled 78 acres of springs, ponds, riparian vegetation and agricultural fields owned by Tim & Robin Owen. Special thanks to the Owen family for their gift of conservation that will benefit present and future generations.

GVLT is now in its 20th anniversary year with high expectations for continued success in private land conservation and community trail building. Look for more information about special anniversary events as 2010 unfolds.

For more information contact GVLT at 587-8404, landtrust@gvlt.org or visit www.gvlt.org.