Private land conservation easements ensure opportunities for continued ranching while protecting important habitat for wildlife

POCATELLO, ID: Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust (SSLT) completed two contiguous conservation easements in Bear Lake County, Idaho, on Jan. 6, that protect 931 acres of ranchland, open space, and wildlife habitat.

“Land is a gift from God,” explains the landowner who wishes to remain anonymous. “As landowners we see the value in preserving the land, not only for the benefit of the wildlife but also to be able to continue the lifestyle that we so enjoy…raising cattle. It is a legacy that can be handed down from generation to generation. Many thanks to the team at SSLT for the efforts they put into this conservation easement. They are great folks to work with!”

Conservation easements are voluntary agreements that limit development to protect agricultural and conservation values. Landowners and land trusts work together to establish the specific terms of a conservation easement, tailoring each agreement to the unique conservation values of the property and the interests and goals of both parties.

“These two properties are working cattle ranches that provide important habitat for a variety of wildlife including deer, elk, moose, and sage-grouse,” SSLT Executive Director, Matt Lucia said. “These conservation easements preserve family ranching opportunities while also protecting wildlife habitat in a landscape that is rapidly converting to residential development. Conservation easements represent a win-win for ranching and wildlife.”

Funding for these conservation easements was made possible through a collaborative partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, a private family foundation, the Cross Charitable Foundation, the Southeast Idaho Mine Mitigation Fund, the Southeast Idaho Mule Deer Foundation, and the Heart of the Rockies Initiative and the Kendeda Fund.

“NRCS Idaho is grateful to have been able to be work with this partnership to protect these ranches and keep them as working land and intact wildlife habitat indefinitely,” said Tracie O’Neill, State Easement Coordinator for NRCS in Idaho. “We hope that others will be inspired to consider easements on their lands by this project.”

These two conservation easements contribute to a larger watershed-scale conservation effort between SSLT, the Bear River Land Conservancy, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the NRCS to expand conservation opportunities for private landowners throughout the Bear River Watershed.