The Boehmler family completed a conservation easement with Five Valleys in 2012 on their property in the North Hills of Missoula. Sandy Boehmler spoke the following words at a gathering honoring that event:
“The value of this land as a place that supports native plants and animals is worth more to me than any amount of money. My deep connection—to the plants here, to the animals here, to the earth here—has enriched my life. And I want people in the future to have an opportunity to make that same connection. Feeling that connection to Nature is extremely important. I believe that if we do not know that we are one with Nature, we as individuals and we as a species are lost. Putting a conservation easement on this land will allow people far into the future to connect with Nature here.
Several 350-year-old ponderosa pine trees live here. These ancient trees are my friends. When I was a teenager struggling with teenaged problems, I would sit up high in their branches and be hugged by the trees. They helped me feel better. I have been connected to these ancient trees for 40 years. Now I am watching them die and they are becoming beautiful old snags—homes for woodpeckers and insects. These snags are still my friends.
The apple orchard that was here when I was a child had about 75 trees in it. That orchard fed us more apples than my family could possibly eat. This abundance enabled us to give boxes of apples to our friends. The orchard is about 90 years old, now. Most of the trees have died, but several apple trees still live on. They continue to give us apples. We have eaten from these apple trees for 40 years. The wildlife living in this drainage know these apple trees, too. The apples are food for the bears, the birds, the squirrels, and the deer. They, too, spend their lives eating from these apple trees.
Yesterday, when I was walking down the road in front of the cabin, I looked down and found a square nail. This nail is from an old homestead that was here about 90 years ago. Finding the square nail reminds me that people were here before me and my family. Finding their nail connects me to those people who lived on this piece of earth in the past. Old records from the mid-1800s describe a wagon road that crossed this land, connecting the Bitterroot and Missoula Valleys with the Jocko Valley. Other records show a Native American trail entering this drainage. Knowing that an ancient trail crossed this land connects me to the people who were here hundreds and even thousands of years ago.
In 1982, gasoline spilled from a pipeline a few hundred yards up the creek. The gasoline killed the fish. It killed the frogs. It killed insects. It killed the plants along the creek. But the fish, and the frogs, and the insects, and the plants all came back. Nature has overcome what the spilled gasoline destroyed. I want the Natural World to continue to have a chance to survive and thrive here.
This land taught me about Nature when I was a child. I didn’t have words for it then, but some of my first deeply spiritual experiences were here, on this land. My relationship with this land is part of my spiritual life. When I am on this land I feel connected to Spirit.
The value of this land as a place where Nature has not been covered with concrete, or asphalt or houses—a place where people can know and be part of Nature—that value is priceless. My wish to preserve these natural values leads me to want a conservation easement on this land.”
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