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Montana conservation leader says preserving private land is key to maintaining wildlife

GVLT Executive Director Chet Work speaks at a Gallatin Valley Earth Day talk in February.
Olivia Weitz
Yellowstone Public Radio
GVLT Executive Director Chet Work speaks about the importance of private land for wildlife habitat at a Gallatin Valley Earth Day talk in February.

As more lands become developed in the Gallatin Valley, some wildlife habitat is being lost. A local conservation leader says preserving private lands is critical to maintaining wildlife in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

Gallatin Valley Land Trust Executive Director Chet Work said at an Earth Day event last week that development in Gallatin County has been outpacing land conservation.

“One of the messages that we find unbelievable is in the same 30 years it took us to conserve 52,000 acres, more than 100,000 acres have been converted into rural and residential subdivisions in Gallatin County alone,” he said.

Work says animals that travel outside of Yellowstone National Park, such as elk, often rely on private lands for habitat and migration.

“The very wildlife that we deem to be that of the national park actually also belongs to those private lands in the periphery,” Chet said. “If we fail to conserve the peripheral private lands, we will lose the wildlife that we attribute to the park.”

The Gallatin Valley Land Trust focuses on Gallatin, Park and Madison Counties. To keep up with development pressures, the land trust aims to triple the pace that it conserves land over the next five years.

This Thursday’s talk for the Gallatin Valley Earth Day series will focus on wildlife crossings. More information can be found online at

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.