Summit Land Conservancy was formed 17 years ago and as of Monday, they’ve conserved nearly 6800 acres. The newest easement is 841 acres of rangeland in Chalk Creek in the eastern part of Summit County.
The Wright Property, known as the Wright Land and Livestock was settled in 1923 as part of a homestead. It’s been a dairy operation and granary for about 100 years. The family continues to raise cattle and farm hay on the land.
Summit Land Conservancy Executive Director Cheryl Fox says the property is heritage ranch land and vital sagebrush habitat for the greater sage-grouse, also known as the sage hen. The species is designated as near threatened throughout western North America.
Federal money for sage-grouse protection, state funding, Summit Land Conservancy funds and equity donations came together to purchase the easement from the family.
“There are land-owners who are able to just donate a conservation easement which means they are giving up their right to develop that land forever and that’s a tax deduction that they are able to take based on the value of the development rights.”
She says a lot of farmers and ranchers don’t have enough income to justify a large tax write off. With the conservation easement sale, they get some write off because they valued the land below market rates.
Fox declined to say how much the family was paid for the agricultural easement. Descendants have been named to continue the legacy of ranching on the property. She says the families have played a key role in protecting the land through many generations and selling the conservation easement means they forego equity they had built over many years of ownership.
Fox says it’s more common for ranches and farm operations in Hoytsville and Coalville to be developed rather than preserved.
“You know, they get subdivided up into mini ranchettes at 20 acres or five acres. And a lot of roads go in up there. And that can have a real deleterious effect on the sage-grouse habitat, and he water quality and the things we’re trying to protect. You know, conservation is not what usually happens and when it does happen it’s because a family is really committed to protecting their heritage and their legacy and it’s just a huge honor to be able to help them do that."
They’ve closed on five easements this year and there are two more projects Fox says, which should close before the end of the year. One is the Rodeo Park area in Oakley and the other is in Hennifer. This is the Summit Land Conservancy’s 40th conservation easement they’ve closed since they formed in 2002.