January 18, 2018
Livingston, MT – Mountain Sky Guest Ranch has partnered with the Montana Land Reliance (MLR) to permanently protect an historic property in the Paradise Valley. The donated easement, signed by both parties on January 5, 2018, protects 6,294 acres of rural, working lands stretching from Highway 89 on its east side to public land in the Custer Gallatin National Forest on the west. The property is surrounded by other lands protected by MLR. This contiguous block of protected lands is part of the other nearly 30,000 acres permanently protected lands by MLR in the valley.
Mountain Sky Guest Ranch has a long history, beginning in 1866 when Nelson Story drove 1,000 head of cattle up from Ft. Worth, Texas to feed Montana mining towns. Travelling through the Paradise Valley and beset by an early winter, Story camped in a “pretty little canyon” that today is Mountain Sky, and protected by a conservation easement. In 1929, rancher Charlie Murphy, looking to diversify his cattle operation, welcomed the first guests for their stay at Ox Yoke Ranch, the beginning of an 89-year-old tenure as a working guest ranch, which was purchased by Arthur M. Blank in 2001.
“In choosing to place Mountain Sky Guest Ranch under easement, we want to protect the open space and wildlife habitat for our guests and families for generations to come,” MSGR owner Arthur M. Blank explains. “Being a good steward of the land and giving back to the community is intrinsic to our core values; it’s how we demonstrate good citizenship and our approach to good business.”
With this easement, the majority of Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, and neighboring West Creek Ranch, also owned by the Blank Family, is protected under conservation easement, totaling more than 14,000 acres between the two ranches. These easements preserve not only important pieces of Montana’s agricultural heritage and scenic open space, but also provide important habitat for elk, pronghorn and other wildlife, and important contiguous acreage in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
“This is a spectacular ranch in the Paradise Valley. We are excited to conserve its agricultural and wildlife habitat values, while preserving the historic Mountain Sky Guest Ranch,” said Jay Erickson, MLR Managing Director.
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified easement holding organization, such as The Montana Land Reliance. Conservation easements restrict certain land uses, such as inappropriate development, in the interest of traditional uses and protecting the property’s open space. Since its establishment in 1978, The Montana Land Reliance has completed 844 conservation easements, protecting over 1,000,000 acres of Montana ranch and timber lands. The Montana Land Reliance holds 27 other conservation easements in the Paradise Valley.