WSGA helps establish Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust
The Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust (WSGLT) was founded by a general membership vote of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) in December 2000. WSGLT establishment was based on a growing need within the ranching community to provide voluntary, private-sector options for agricultural land conservation. It became a federally registered charitable organization in July 2001.
Their objectives are accomplished through placing agricultural conservation easements on private lands, increasing awareness of tools to maintain ranchlands and assisting in research for new opportunities to conserve working agricultural landscapes.
WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna reflects on the history of WSGLT and WSGA’s involvement in forming the trust.
History of WSGA involvement
“We were approached by several members in Carbon County and the Saratoga area,” he says. “Initially, some of the conversation involved developing a local land trust in this area, but as WSGA talked about it, we felt it made more sense to us to create a statewide land trust.”
“This led to a broader conversation amongst our membership at WSGA with several members interested in permanent conservation easements,” shares Jim. “There was a feeling it was important this process was set up with an entity focused on agriculture and maintaining the agriculture productivity of the land.”
There were several examples from other states associations in the formation of WSGLT, primarily the California Rangeland Trust and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust.
Having a statewide land trust not only provided efficiency in the administration of the trust, but also consistency in how easements were done across the state, he adds.
“As a result, following a couple of meetings with the Saratoga group, we took a proposal to our membership in 2000 to create the WSGLT as an independent arm of WSGA,” Jim explains. “In those days there was a lot of misunderstanding, or perhaps just leeriness on conservation easements, as there were examples of environmental groups who attained conservation easements and transferred them to the government.”
“After some meaningful and in-depth discussions, WSGA membership voted to support the establishment of the WSGLT,” he says. “I could not have imagined 20 plus years ago we would have come as far with it as we have. WSGLT’s success has been an example for other states that have started agricultural conservation efforts utilizing land trusts.”
Importance of WSGLT
WSGLT is dedicated to conserving Wyoming’s working agricultural lands, which also provide open space, wildlife habitat and other environmental benefits for future generations.
To date, the WSGLT is among the top 10 largest regional U.S. easement holders with roughly 287,792 numbers of acres conserved.
WSGLT offers several benefits to the state of Wyoming. It is the Cowboy State’s first and only Wyoming-based, statewide ag land conservation organization; focuses specifically on conserving ag lands; maintains a board of directors who have a first-hand understanding of ag and community issues; and is affiliated with the WSGA.
“Conservation easements are voluntary agreements limiting the amount and type of development on private property,” says WSGLT Executive Director Jessica Crowder. “These agreements are granted in perpetuity and attached to the land, regardless of ownership.”
Ownership of the property remains with the landowner and is not transferred to the land trust, other possible easement holders or easement funders, she adds.
“Conservation easements can provide financial benefits and tax incentives,” she says. “This often can help families faced with hard decisions – providing not only a mechanism for maintaining beloved land and legacies, but also providing a financial mechanism to assist in keeping the land in ag.”
“Agriculture is at the heart of our mission. Our collaboration with WSGA provides the critical connection we need to serve agricultural producers as they strive to meet their conservation goals. We are proud to be a part of WSGA’s 150-year history,” says Jessica.
For more information on the WSGLT, visit wsglt.org.
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.