Success Stories


"The Love Goes Way Back"          

--GG and Grandpa Bell

The Victor Future Farmers of America volunteered last Spring at a BRLT conserved working ranch just south of Hamilton off of Sleeping Child Road. It was all hands on deck—over 30 students came to the ranch to work on fences, move pipes, work on the ditch, giving this cherished land some good old fashioned TLC and lending a fellow-farmer a helping hand. Watching the kids bring the ranch back to life got family matriarch, Pat Rouse, reminiscing about her parents and why they started the ranch so many decades ago.
...”My Dad first saw the property on Sleeping Child when he was in college and in the Hamilton area for an agriculture event. He promised himself if he could ever get back, he would try for the property. He started that process around 1955, and we moved into the ranch in 1957. So the love goes way back! My parents’ commitment was keeping agriculture in the Bitterroot Valley. So it was a natural progression that they started talking about conserving their property.
Our family has always spent time doing things together—working the ranch is no different. Whether it’s getting the hay put up or deciding what crops we will grow, it is a discussion held around the dining room table. My grandson Caleb has had to learn a lot about daily operations, pumps that break down, ditches that get huge breaks in them, crops that don’t come up the way they are supposed to, and weather that doesn’t cooperate, it is life and what happens on a ranch. But for me to walk the fields with my family and look at the progress we have made, and discuss the future of what we want to do is one the proudest moments for me. I know my parents would be just as proud! 
It was a great opportunity for all these students to see what it means to keep a piece of history alive for a working ranch. I’m so fortunate that my family has such a love for this ranch and they honor my parents by keeping it alive.”

Wood family ranch conservation easement
photo: Keith Fialcowitz

“ As the owners of this historical and productive ranch, we believe that preserving the family heritage and protecting the agricultural way of life in the Bitterroot Valley is the best legacy that we can leave to the Valley and the memories of those who believed in the value of the land a source of food and a grand environment in which to raise a family.”
- Jennie Wood Farley and Laurie Wood-Gundlach

Wood Family Ranch

The 265 acre Wood Family Ranch is located amongst numerous working farms northeast of Corvallis, Montana. The property is comprised of and has been managed for productive agriculture under the Wood family’s ownership for four generations. The property includes 199 acres of irrigable pasture approximately 180 of which are productive hay grounds. The property is near more than 1,200 acres of conserved private land and will help anchor long-term protection of one of the Bitterroot Valley’s longest standing and most productive agricultural areas.

History: In 1896 Albert Wood and his family began agricultural operations on fertile land between Corvallis and Stevensville in the Bitterroot Valley. Generations later, Albert’s great granddaughters and current owners, Jennie Wood Farley and Laurie Wood-Gundlach, preserved the agricultural nature of the Wood Family Ranch by partnering with the Bitter Root Land Trust to execute a conservation easement protecting their land.

Sawtooth Ranch conservation easement
photo: Keith Fialcowitz

"My Dad grew up on a ranch in Frenchtown in the early 1900’s. Put himself through college partially by trapping and was truly an outdoorsman of the original style. His delight in owning this property was to see the animals and to experience the secluded nature of this land. It reminded him of his roots. As testimony to his love of the land, his ashes were dispersed over the land when he passed away in 2004. It is with this memory and legacy that preservation of the ranch is undertaken."
- Joe Grover, 2/28/2008

Sawtooth Ranch

The Sawtooth Ranch is an 840-acre piece of prime Westside wildlife habitat. Sawtooth Ranch is located approximately two miles southwest of Hamilton and is comprised of varied habitat, including Sawtooth and Owings Creeks, various forested wetlands and created ponds, significant elk winter range, Ponderosa pine forest, and irrigated pasture. Sawtooth Ranch presents a truly unique conservation opportunity: A large, intact ecosystem close to Ravalli County’s largest population center.

Lost Horse Creek Ranch conservation easement
photo: Keith Fialcowitz

“…stewardship to leave a lasting impression of open space for future generations to know there is still another last, best place.” The Swartz’ “deep desire to keep the land intact will be a reminder of the inherent beauty, serenity, and peacefulness open space offers to wildlife, common agriculture and the human spirit.”
-Stan and Sherry Swartz, 2/16/2009

Lost Horse Creek Ranch

The 409-acre Lost Horse Creek Ranch stretches along both sides of 1.5 miles of Lost Horse Creek. The Lost Horse Creek Ranch is located approximately nine miles south of Hamilton off of Lost Horse Road, one mile west of Highway 93. The Ranch includes working agricultural ground, diverse wildlife habitat, and scenic views of the Como Peaks from Lost Horse Road. Irrigated hay fields, Ponderosa and Lodgepole pine-dominated forests, intact riparian areas of Lost Horse and Moose Creeks, wetlands, and high mountain grasslands provide a host of conservation benefits on the Lost Horse Creek Ranch. Importantly, the property is the largest single ownership in the Lost Horse drainage.