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During the last few weeks of his mom's life, Dennis Anderson promised her he'd preserve the family land.

On Monday, he and his family made good on that pledge. The Missoula City Council and Board of County Commissioners both said yes to a $1.8 million conservation easement for the Spooner Creek Ranch in the Upper Miller Creek Valley.

"It really took my breath away, getting a tour of your place," said Commissioner Michele Landquist.

At its regular weekly meeting, the council also listened to plans for a historic preservation ordinance, which is expected to be returned to committee. It heard that bringing sewer lines to the Rattlesnake Valley had turned the place into a "war zone." But it was the easement and the Anderson family's generosity that drew rare applause in council chambers.

"This is really a treasure for all of us in the area," said Councilwoman Marilyn Marler.

The council and commissioners both voted unanimously in favor of the open space bonds deal. The city paid $25,000 toward the purchase, the county put in $175,000 and the Anderson family contributed $1.6 million of the value. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will hold the easement on the 207 acres of working ranch, a haven for elk and other animals and lush spread of pasture and timberlands.

"It's very, very diverse with wildlife and lots of different types of habitat," said the foundation's Mike Mueller.

During public comment, though, one resident said an area across town wasn't looking so pristine. Construction is under way to bring sewer pipes to homes at the northern end of the city, and Rattlesnaker Will Snodgrass said the work is kicking up massive dust clouds and spewing dangerous diesel fumes.

Particulate matter already is a concern in the Missoula Valley, and the fumes carry toxins: "I just wonder if you have stopped to think about this as you drive through the Rattlesnake and see all the dust and dirt," said Snodgrass, a longtime opponent of the project.

During the meeting, the council also heard about plans for a historic preservation ordinance for Missoula. Proponents said the rules would help Missoula's historic neighborhoods keep their unique features, but opponents said they feared the regulations were too restrictive.

Amy Capolupo, a resident of the downtown, was one of the former. She said she likes living in her neighborhood and wants to preserve such pockets in Missoula. She read the measure and liked what she saw.

"It looked like it was a good start," Capolupo said.

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at 523-5262, or on

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