Wyoming Stock Growers Ag Land Trust celebrates 10th anniversary
CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust celebrated 10 years with its boots on the ground in conjunction with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Winter Roundup Convention on Dec. 13 in Casper.
The Stock Growers Ag Land Trust was founded as a statewide, agricultural land trust by a vote of the general membership of WSGA at its 2000 Convention. Since its inception, the Land Trust has worked with 44 ranching families to conserve more than 148,700 acres through 57 conservation easements.
“Thanks to the vision and leadership of our founders, board members and trustees, the Stock Growers Ag Land Trust plays a critical role in promoting the importance of agricultural lands to conservation – nationally through our membership in the Partnership of Rangeland Trusts and here in the Cowboy State where more than 90 percent of our private land is in agriculture,” Executive Director Pamela Dewell said.
Wyoming’s 26 million acres of private agricultural lands produce food and fiber and sustain rural communities and generations of hard-working families. They buffer federal parks and forests and dovetail the state lands managed for the benefit of Wyoming’s schools. Private ranchlands provide some of the most critical wildlife habitat as well as Wyoming’s defining wide-open spaces and working landscape. Studies show they also provide a positive net return to county tax rolls.
The Stock Growers Land Trust is the only conservation organization that works within the policies and directives of WSGA, a prominent agriculture leader in the state since its founding in 1872. WSGA founded the Land Trust after a group of ranchers and friends in the North Platte Valley invited the organization to consider sponsoring an agricultural land trust.
“We’d been approached by various ranchers who said for whatever reason, tax purposes or for personal reasons, ‘I’m interested in putting a conservation easement on some of my land,'” WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna said in a 2003 interview with the Western Farmer-Stockman. “We sensed there is some demand for a land trust that is agriculturally focused and rancher controlled.”
Each year, the Stock Growers Ag Land Trust receives requests from dozens of landowners interested in conserving their agricultural lands. The Land Trust works with landowners who both donate conservation easements and who apply for purchased easements.
“Funds are limited for purchased easements, but each year thousands of agricultural acres are conserved thanks the generosity of the landowners with whom we work and funders such as the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust and the Natural Resources Conservation Service and a host of many private and public funders and project partners,” Dewell said.
Conservation easements are legal, voluntary agreements between landowners and qualified conservation organizations which permanently restrict the type and amount of development that occurs on private property. They are widely used in estate and tax planning and incentives are currently being considered in Congress. The Stock Growers Ag Land Trust works primarily with working ranchlands and is committed to helping facilitate the transfer of land ownership to the next generation of Wyoming agricultural producers.
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