With the Barmeyer family in attendance, Missoula County commissioners and the Missoula City Council agreed on Monday night to spend $270,000 to bring 139 acres up Pattee Canyon into the city’s network of open-space land.
Before the vote, the family told stories of their parents, who cared for the property for years, but saw themselves as stewards, not owners.
During their tenure, they fought back a proposed gravel pit and, with the help of Russell Smith of Missoula courthouse fame, they helped implement residential zoning for Pattee Canyon, setting the stage for future conservation.
“Pattee remains today one of Missoula’s most beautiful recreation areas,” said Barbara Barmeyer, one of three sisters present Monday night. “If a child grows up with a connection to wild places, it’s a lifelong blessing and an indelible experience.”
In a rare joint meeting, the city and county unanimously agreed to spend the funding from the 2006 open space bond to cover transaction costs associated with the property, much of which the family donated.
The Five Valleys Land Trust has identified the property as a high-priority area for conservation. The 130-acre parcel includes an array of ecosystems and is home to nearly 170 animal species, including several listed as a Montana species of concern.
The animals range from elk to the yellow rump warbler. The area also serves as a key migratory corridor for bears and lions.
“This has been many years in the making,” said Pelah Hoyt with Five Valleys. “This proposal ties together many years of conservation work in Missoula. They want to protect this land because it’s been so good to them, and they want to share it with the Missoula community.”
Under the agreement, the family will donate 90 acres to the city and retain an additional 40 acres for private use, though it will grant a trailhead and a trail easement across that portion of the property.
The Five Valleys Land Trust will hold the conservation easements in perpetuity on the contiguous 130 acres.
The property is located near the entry to Pattee Canyon and offers views of the Missoula Valley. The purchase leaves the city with$1.8 million remaining from its share of the open space bond.
“Thank you for your foresight and generous gift,” Missoula County Commissioner Bill Carey told the family.