Land conservation: WSGLT continues advancing in conservation work
“Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust (WSGLT) is unique,” says WSGLT Executive Director Bo Alley. “We’re Wyoming’s only statewide ag land conservation easement organization. Our focus is on conservation of productive ag land.”
WSGLT was formed by a vote from the general membership of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) in 2000.
“We have a 14-member Board of Directors, the majority of which is appointed by WSGA,” says Alley.
In addition, WSGLT has a seven-member Board of Trustees that serves in an advisory capacity.
“Things at WSGLT are going really well,” Alley adds. “We’ve got a ton of stuff going on and some neat things in the works.”
In 2015, WSGLT had a groundbreaking year, closing nine easements and protecting almost 30,000 acres.
“We had a stellar year in 2015 on the easement front,” he says. “We’re going to use that momentum as we move forward.”
Alley was named executive director of WSGLT in December 2015, and he notes that five employees work with the organization.
“We have a couple of new faces on staff,” he says, noting that Eric Schacht, Maggie Rux and Travis Brammer have recently joined Margaret Cox at WSGLT.
Cox has worked at WSGLT for five years, and Alley notes, “Margaret’s the really solid foundation for us. She’s really helping to move the organization to the next level with some of our new employees.”
“Eric started in September 2015 as our conservation director,” Alley continues. “He has a lot of experience in range management.”
Schacht meets with farmers and ranchers who are interested in conservation, understands what they’re looking for and helps them realize their conservation goals.
Rux is the external relations coordinator.
“We’re really excited to have her on board,” Alley says. “She’ll be coordinating our social media and web communications.”
In addition, Rux will oversee updates to WSGLT’s website, making it mobile friendly and enhancing the organization’s digital presence.
Brammar is a recent University of Wyoming graduate who works on stewardship and monitoring.
“Travis is an interesting mix of finance, education and natural resources,” Alley comments. “He really believes in our mission, and he’ll be working on stewardship, as well as helping us to look at different business opportunities.”
Alley continues, “We’re always looking out to see what’s on the horizon and finding the means and funding to see what really works.”
Alley notes that, as a personal goal, he strives to find a strong business model that helps WSGLT to maximize its potential.
“I’m here to look at business models that are out there now, what works and what doesn’t work, trying to define and develop a program with a focus on young producers,” he explains. “We’re working on some exciting things that have some potential, but we’re really vetting them to ensure a viable structure is present.”
In addition to a new staff and new opportunities, Alley mentions that funding for WSGLT is a constant question.
“We’ve been working through concerns with the program that funds easement. There were some changes in the 2014 Farm Bill to that program,” he says.
WSGLT holds 30 easements through the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, and the new program, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, is still undergoing rule promulgation.
“The rules for that program came out last year, but they still aren’t finalized,” Alley explains. “We’re in a tough position because we don’t have the answers, and we don’t know what the requirements are going to be.”
He adds, “We’ll spend a lot of time working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to really understand what the program is and how it’s going to function.”
NRCS is one of the two largest funders of purchased conservation easements through WSGLT.
“The Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resource Trust is our other largest funding source,” Alley says. “We also work with other land trust and non-government organizations for funding.”
Alley points to the Conservation Fund, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and other conservation groups that have helped to close conservation easement projects across the state.
“W have great relationships with other conservation groups, and we’re able to work together to pool resources and collectively close conservation easement projects,” he comments.
Alley also notes that there is a second type of conservation easement – a fully donated easement, where the landowner donates the entire value of the easement. The strategy provides tax benefits for the easement donor.
“WSGLT has been very successful in affecting and helping producers to conserve their properties though a conservation easement tool,” Alley says. “I’m always looking for other ways we can provide assistance to producers.”
He further notes that with an energetic staff, WSGLT is poised to take advantage of a new opportunity and new direction.
“Our staff is really great. They’re energetic. They all have ag backgrounds, and they believe in our mission and understand its importance,” he says. “We keep scanning the horizon for any means, methods and tools we can provide to help conserve ag land in Wyoming.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.