Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Land Trust Alternative: For Endangered Ranchers, It’s a Future

In north central Wyoming, seven miles east of the Big Horn National Forest, Catherine Kusel and her brother Fred, two siblings well into retirement age, still run cattle on land purchased by their father in 1920. Their land has an undisturbed beauty typical of Wyoming. It is the dry, high desert steppe of open sage and grass juxtaposed with the rising forms of the Big Horn Mountains at its edge. The Kusel Ranch is an ideal place to raise a small herd of cattle, ideal, too, for people craving the aesthetic of the open west or for the second-home buyer wanting a private getaway. That’s why, since last summer, Catherine and Fred Kusel’s newest neighbor is not another rancher, but a new subdivision. Statistics presented by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association indicate that by the middle of this century, an additional 48 million people are expected to live in the West. This population boom will put 26 million acres of open space at risk of residential and commercial development. Expected to have the third-highest growth rate, Wyoming will feel much of this coming change. Such statistics sound like a death knell for people like the Kusels, who could be considered among the West’s endangered ranchers. To help them out, the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust, Wyoming’s politicians and Wyoming’s industries are stepping up. After all, in a state where agriculture remains the third top-grossing industry after mining and tourism, losing ranches would hurt the economy as much as it would Wyoming’s identity...more

I don't like this anymore when stock growers do it than I do when enviro organizations do it.

Others have written about the potential hazards of these easements and the unsettled law which surrounds them.

My concern is with the policy in general. The stock growers need dues paying members to survive as an organization. The number of potential dues paying members is declining, so what do they do? They throw their arms around government programs to keep potential members in business.

In so doing, they are letting government policy determine current and future land use on private property. Cattlemen should be riding away from the government, not limping towards it.


Anonymous said...

Well said Frank! I keep hearing we need a seat at the table, but not when they are serving you up as the main course.

Jody-wy said...

Most subdivision have more covenants on what you can and can not do on your land then do WSGALT conservation easement, witch usually only restrict subdivision and non Ag building….

Brett said...

This is a bad idea, for all the reasons you posted. By the way, what happens to these so-called pro-ag policies when the city slickers, who are more in love with the idea of the wide open west than the reality of it, start reshaping those policies? Need we remind folks of how Jon Marvel came to be? Further, none of these easements addresses the water situation. Private easements are useless, too. TNC, mother nature's realtor, will sell your land to Uncle Sam and funnel the money to the enviros when the time is right...if you are lucky. Some preservation! Read about that sort of thing in Range.

Cedeing your rights is exactly that, no matter how you want to phrase it. Further, rest assured that the real estate cartel and their attorneys will find a way through given half a chance.

Sharon said...

An easement is a contract in which the rights being limited are enumerated. The seller chooses what to limit and what to keep. It can keep families on the land. What good does it do that family, or agriculture, or wildlife, if they are living in town and houses line the riparian areas and two horses live in every 40 acre pasture? A development is also "in perpetuity". If you don't like easements, don't enter into one.