The Nature Conservancy helped to write and worked to pass Nevada's conservation easement legislation in March 1983. This law allows landowners to sell or donate development rights without sacrificing land ownership.
Conservation easements are an important conservation tool in Nevada. Since nearly 83% of Nevada is public land, it is important to note that properties with conservation easements remain on the tax rolls.
The donation of a conservation easement is treated as a charitable gift, resulting in tax reductions for the landowner. The easement may also lower the property's market value, which in turn lowers the estate tax.
Nevada state Senators Sue Wagner and Spike Wilson
The Conservancy acquired Nevada's first-ever conservation easements in 1987 and 1988 on the UX and 7-H Ranches, respectively. These two significant properties border Franklin Lake, a 22,000 acre wetland habitat essential to sandhill cranes, white pelicans, trumpeter swans and numerous waterfowl species. These protections stemmed the tide of Nevada's disappearing wetlands - 70 percent have been lost in the last century - while ensuring continuation of the two livestock operations.
The Conservancy negotiated with the owners of a 14,010-acre ranch in Humboldt County to buy 1,820 acres of desert dace habitat in Soldier Meadows and a conservation easement for 5,150 additional acres in 1992. The following year, the Conservancy transferred the easement to the Bureau of Land Management at cost, for permanent protection. This protection of an endangered species was possible without economically impacting a family livestock operation.
The Conservancy purchased a 140-acre private inholding along the Jarbidge River in northern Nevada. In 1998, the Conservancy sold a portion of the property with a conservation easement to restrict usage and development. As a result, this property remains on the tax rolls while its riparian habitat and floodplain - which support the endangered bull trout and numerous bird species — will be protected in perpetuity.
Less than a year after helping the Conservancy acquire the nearby 788-acre River Fork Ranch in the Carson Valley in 2000, the Sturgis family donated a conservation easement on its own 723-acre working ranch. This one family is making a difference in the effort to protect open space, agricultural heritage and ecological health of the Carson Valley.
In 2001, the Conservancy received a conservation easement on the Parker Ranch outside of Beatty through the Wetlands Reserve Program — a voluntary federal program providing financial incentives to enhance wetlands in exchange for retiring marginal agricultural land. This resulted in funding to protect and restore critical habitat on the Conservancy's 650 acres for the rare Amargosa toad, which helped to keep the species from being listed as endangered - an outcome that could have devastated the economy of the small town of Beatty.
The Conservanncy has also used conservation easements to protect 1,000 acres of floodplain along 4 miles of the Carson River at Bently-Kirman Ranch.