BITTERROOT VALLEY — Under “normal” circumstances, the Bitter Root Land Trust would be hosting its annual celebration right about now -- an event that says "thank you" to its donors.
But this year, “normal” meant gifting their donors “thank you grams” from afar.
From Sula to Missoula, the Bitter Root Land Trust conserves over 8,600 acres of land.
“If you drive up and down the Bitterroot Valley, you're gonna see our work. It's all predicated on private landowners who care a lot about their land and want to make sure that they're leaving a legacy for the future,” explained Bitter Root Land Trust executive director Gavin Ricklefs.
“So, if you have had a chance to eat anything recently, local agriculture is supporting that. So, any of the farms and ranches up and down the East Side Highway -- which is one of our most scenic spots in the valley, certainly places for people to go and recreate like Skalkaho Park in Hamilton, the White Memorial fishing access site down in Connor. Those are projects that we've been able to complete this year,” Ricklefs added.
But in order to conserve the water, the wildlife, and the working lands, the land trust relies on thousands of dollars from donors across the Bitterroot.
“Our operating budget -- we raise nearly $700,000 every year from about 700 people in the community, Ricklefs said. And without all that support, Montana wouldn't have many of the things that make it The Last Best Place.
“It's no wonder. A lot of people want to move here. Right? I mean, look at this place. It's incredible we're all so fortunate to live here. And that's why we all collectively come together as a community to make sure that that we can conserve this place, because it's, it's just too special to lose,” Ricklefs told MTN News.
So rather than gathering in person to show their gratitude, staff and volunteers for the Bitter Root Land Trust took a distanced approach in saying “thank you” this year.
“We just want to say, an absolutely heartfelt thank you. Thank you for your vision, thank you for caring about the beauty of this place, and thank you for ensuring that it's here for future generations,” Ricklefs concluded.
Click here to learn more about ways to support the organization, aside from monetary donations.