The Sheridan Community Land Trust (SCLT) and Sheridan Heights Ranch owner Don Roberts have entered into a voluntary conservation easement covering 476 acres of ranch land and wildlife habitat.
The easement aims to protect the area from commercial development.
The agreement includes public access for Soldier Ridge Trail at the west end of Sheridan, and it allows the Land Trust to expand recreational trails said Chris Vrba, SCLT marketing and development director.
"One thing that will happen next year is the Land Trust will complete the loop on the Soldier Ridge Trail system and will wind up connecting the Soldier Ridge Trail to Hidden Hoot [trail] that we built this summer," he said.
SCLT has already started work on the connection trail known as Kicking Horse Trail, which will be open to hiking, biking and equestrian use.
Vrba said a voluntary conservation easement like this with a private landowner typically does not allow for public access. The easement area that includes Soldier Ridge Trail was previously under a permanent trail easement. But now, the new agreement takes into account how much the community values the area.
"We take a working ranch right at the edge of town at the heart of an area that could potentially be developed one day but has tremendous value to the community as the parcel it currently is and it ensures that those important characteristics remain in perpetuity," he said.
Sheridan Heights Ranch is a working ranch that's owned and operated by Don Roberts. Roberts said in a SCLT press release that allowing public access was a tough choice initially but that he believes it has added value to the community.
The land is also home to a range of wildlife including 10 species of raptors like eagles and ospreys.
This is the 11th voluntary conservation easement covering about 3,500 acres that the SCLT has developed in Sheridan County, Vrba said.
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