Private land conservation easements ensure opportunities for continued farming and ranching while protecting important wildlife habitat and other conservation values that provide significant public benefits.

POCATELLO: Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust (SSLT) recently completed a conservation easement in Franklin County that protects 1,204 acres of important ranchland, open space, and wildlife habitat.

“We’re conservationists too,” explained the landowners. “The reason we’re doing this is so that this valley is protected and remains open and available for agriculture and ranching for future generations. Working with Matt Coombs at Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust, we really felt like he understood our livestock operation and interests and valued our perspectives as agricultural landowners.”

Conservation easements are voluntary agreements that limit development to protect agricultural and wildlife habitat 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.

“This property is a working cattle ranch that provides important habitat for a variety of wildlife including deer, elk, moose, sharp-tailed grouse, and Bonneville cutthroat trout,” SSLT Executive Director Matt Lucia said. “The conservation easement agreement on this property preserves family ranching opportunities and protects wildlife habitat in a landscape that is rapidly converting to residential development. Conservation easements represent a win-win for ranching and wildlife.”

Funding for this conservation easement was made possible through a collaborative partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), PacifiCorp through the Bear River Hydroelectric Project Environmental Coordination Committee, and the Heart of the Rockies Initiative.

“NRCS Idaho is grateful to have been able to work with this partnership to protect this ranch and keep it 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.”

Funding for the staff that made this conservation easement possible is part of a broader, collaborative effort among SSLT, Bear River Land Conservancy (UT), the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Intermountain West Joint Venture, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and others to increase the pace and scale of conservation in the tri-state Bear River Watershed by expanding conservation opportunities for private landowners.