By Jessianne Wright EBS Contributor

BOZEMAN – On May 19, those who enjoy pumping bike pedals are invited to join the Gallatin Valley Land Trust in a guided road-biking tour south of Bozeman. The two different bike routes will showcase open lands protected by the Gallatin County Open Space Program, a conservation initiative that has been supported by tax dollars to keep land in the valley free of development and preserved for agricultural uses.

Those riding in the Open Lands Bike Tour will meet at the Sacajawea Middle School at 3525 S. 3rd Ave. in Bozeman at 9:30 a.m., rain or shine. From there, groups will depart at 10 a.m. and ride one of two loops—an 8-miler that stays within the vicinity of Sacajawea Middle School, or a 26-mile loop that extends almost to Highway 191.

The tour will make several stops along the way to discuss the open lands program. These stops include conservation easements established by the following families: Hoffman and Schaplow; Bos, Buck/Butterfield, Wolny, Dogterom; and Oliver.

The final stop on the longer course will be an opportunity to highlight the Oliver conservation easement, which was one of the last to be protected with funds made available in 2000 and 2004 by two $10 million bonds approved by Gallatin County voters.

This bike tour comes just before local voters will see the open space program on the ballot once again. On June 5, Gallatin County voters will be asked to consider a 4.5 mill levy that would raise more than $20 million over 15 years, to be used for conservation projects in the area.

GVLT is among several local organizations that work to preserve open space in the valley. These lands are protected as conservation easements and remain in the land owner’s possession with the stipulation that the ground remains undeveloped. However, it can still be used for agriculture.

“Open land may not mean public access, but we benefit so much from the wide-open landscape whether it’s on a bike, in the car or at a trailhead,” said EJ Porth, GVLT communications and outreach director. “One of the things that GVLT does is to find ways for the public to experience open lands on a first-hand level. … I think [the bike tour] will help people appreciate the views they are having.”

The Open Lands Bike Tour is open to all biking skill levels and registration is available the day of the event. Helmets are required.

For more information about the bike tour, visit gvlt.org/events/open-lands-bike-tour.