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Wyoming Stockgrowers Land Trust says conservation easements can provide many benefits

Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust Director Jessica Crowder
Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust

National Ag Day is on March 22nd and in honor of that, we discussed how agriculture and landscapes benefit Wyoming. The Executive Director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust Jessica Crowder told Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck about their program and why it’s important.

Jessica Crowder: Our organization works to keep agricultural lands intact and productive for future generations. And of course, for those of us who live in and enjoy Wyoming now, our organization is unique because we are an organization that is for agricultural producers and really brought to life by agricultural producers. Really what we do and the way that we work to keep agricultural lands intact and productive is through conservation easements, which are voluntary, individually tailored agreements that limit the amount and perhaps the type of the development that can occur on a piece of land.

Bob Beck: Please explain to the average person why that is important, why that's something your organization gets involved in?

JC: So conservation easements and particularly the conservation easements that we put on the ground, are really geared towards keeping agricultural values intact. We all know that this state relies upon agriculture for its economy, but also those lands provide vast amounts of public benefits from beautiful open spaces and views to clean water, clean air, and much of our wildlife habitat is intact on private lands. And really, wildlife and fisheries really flourish on private lands. So these conservation easements really do provide the opportunity for landowners to keep their land as it is forever in perpetuity. We're then not as worried about subdivisions or development that really kind of reduces the opportunities for agriculture or for other values.

BB: Can people get into one of these and then change their mind?

JC: A conservation easement through our land trust is an agreement between us and a landowner. And it's an agreement on what type and how development occurs on the land in the future. We are not able to take over those landowners' basic property rights, so landowners retain title, and all other property rights when they have a conservation easement with us. So if the landowners are interested in selling the land at a later date, they certainly have the opportunity to do so. If they'd like to develop the land, they have to reserve that right through our conservation easement.

BB: Let me ask you about National Ag Day, which is March 22. How does agriculture and working landscapes benefit the state? And what is the role that the land trust plays in supporting all of these types of things?

JC: The Land Trust works to conserve those agricultural values and recognizes that the people who steward those lands and the values that they provide to the public are ultimately of utmost importance to the future of our state and our country. And so when we're able to keep those lands available for food and fiber production into the future, we are certainly providing agricultural opportunities for the future as well. And it's important to think about how we can support agriculture, and those landowners who are in agricultural production now, and so that we can conserve those spaces. And then, of course, the public benefits from that.

BB: What is the landscape for ag right now? What are the financial challenges? And how are things looking?

JC: There are certainly other experts out there who can tell you more about markets and such than I can. But I think the reality is that we all know that there are increasing pressures on agriculture today, from rising cost of land, difficulty accessing land for production, we have drought, continued drought in Wyoming in the West. We also have volatile livestock and crop markets. So we're definitely seeing some pressure on agriculture right now. And it's coming together in a way that it hasn't recently. And so these conservation easements are really providing this opportunity for these families to say we value agriculture and we want to maintain it into the future. And this is one tool to help do so through these volatile circumstances we're in right now.

Those interested can get more information on the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust website.

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