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Conservation Easements

Conservation Easements in Action

Karl and Terri Rappold have sold several conservation easements to The Nature Conservancy on their working ranch on Montana's Rocky Mountain Front.  The easements protect important grizzly bear habitat and helped the Rappolds expand their cattle operation.
Great Marsh, Delaware

When John Fisher settled in the Great Marsh in 1686 he found a land filled with beauty and promise. He obtained the farm from his Quaker friend William Penn. Ten generations later, his descendants are committed to maintaining that beauty and promise.

Chestnut Ridge Farm, Dungannon, Virginia

In the Clinch Valley of southwest Virginia, Dick Austin – farmer, Presbyterian minister and environmental theologian – and his wife, Anne Leibig, donated a conservation easement to The Nature Conservancy in 1998 covering their 159-acre farm. The easement helps protect the watershed and the water quality for an important freshwater mussel shoal inhabited by two endangered species of mussel. Austin, a leading proponent of sustainable agriculture, also has explored selective, sustainable forestry methods with the Conservancy and other partners.

Rappold Ranch, Choteau, Montana

Along the Rocky Mountain Front, Karl Rappold and his family now have 4,677 acres under easement on their working cattle ranch, which has been in the family since it was first homesteaded in 1882. He plans to add to that total in the future. By selling several conservation easements to The Nature Conservancy, this ranch family has been able to expand their cattle ranch.

Here adjacent to the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the ranch is part of the last remaining plains habitat for grizzly bears in the United States. Each spring and summer, grizzlies descend from the mountains to forage along creeks on the ranch and adjacent private lands. Biologists consider the Rocky Mountain Front to be among the top one percent of important wildlife habitat in the country.

In all, 45,000 acres along the Rocky Mountain Front are protected from development by conservation easements and through Conservancy ownership.

Katahdin Forest, Maine

In August 2002, The Nature Conservancy and Great Northern Paper (a company that was sold in 2003 to Brascan) entered into an innovative agreement to protect more than 240,000 acres of land around Mount Katahdin. This partnership helped preserve both forest and jobs in one of the most beautiful and ecologically important stretches of the 31 million-acre Northern Forest.

Through the agreement, the company placed a conservation easement on 200,000 acres of land around Mount Katahdin. The easement guarantees public access, traditional recreational uses, sustainable forestry and no future development. (The company also gave the Conservancy nearly 41,000 acres to protect as core wilderness)
The Conservancy purchased an existing $50 million loan to Great Northern Paper, retiring $14 million of it and refinancing the balance at less than half of the note's current rate, which provided low-cost, long-term financing to Great Northern Paper and helped protect logging jobs in the region.

Front Range, Colorado

In Boulder County, two couples ensured that nearly 750 acres near the Peak to Peak Highway will be protected from development. Jim and Audrey Benedict donated a conservation easement on their 484-acre Sawtooth Springs Ranch; Audrey is a naturalist and a trustee for the Conservancy's Colorado chapter. Anne and Henry Goodnow donated an easement on their 250-acre property. The South St. Vrain Creek runs through both properties, which harbor eight springs and provide an important calving area and migration route for elk. As the Conservancy holds an easement on the adjacent Rangeview Ranch and the Boulder County Land Trust holds another neighboring easement, some 1,180 acres of contiguous private land have been protected through conservation easements in this rapidly developing part of the Front Range.

Cherry Hill Farm, Orem, Utah

In the early 1900s, the Taylor family purchased a 150-acre parcel of land on Utah Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the state, and built a homestead and a profitable dairy farm. Lake ice kept dairy products fresh all summer long. By 2000, with sharply rising property values, the Taylors were searching for a way to keep Cherry Hill Farm in the family. Paul Taylor, then in his eighties and in poor health, knew his heirs would not be able to afford the property's estate taxes once he passed away. The Taylors had already donated two conservation easements in the area, but could not afford to donate this easement on a larger, 108-acre parcel. Because of the property's high-quality wetlands, which support critical habitat for the recovery of an endangered fish and for 178 species of birds, and because the land abuts other parcels under easement, the Conservancy purchased a conservation easement on the 108 acres, valued at $400,000, from the Taylors. Under the terms of the easement, the land will no longer be in agricultural production, nor can any development take place in the future. The subsequent devaluation of the land meant the estate taxes on the property would be substantially less. Paul Taylor, the third of five generations of Taylors to live on Cherry Hill Farm, has died since the signing of the easement in November 2000, but his descendents continue to live on the farm.

Cuatro Ciénegas, Mexico

In the northern state of Coahuila lies a 200,000-acre valley pocked with crystal-clear desert springs and pools and inhabited by 77 species found nowhere else on Earth. There, in 2000, The Nature Conservancy and Mexican partner organization Pronatura Noreste, A.C., together purchased the 7,000-acre Rancho Pozas Azules, "Ranch of the Blue Pools." The purchase was one of the largest private land purchases for conservation purposes in Mexico. Pronatura holds title to the property and is responsible for its management. As part of the transaction, Pronatura accepted a conservation easement over the 200-acre parcel that the seller retained. The easement was the first in northeastern Mexico.

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