ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. - The Nature Conservancy has purchased a 4,200-acre ranch near the Big Horn Mountains, ending speculation that the prime real estate might find its way into the hands of developers.
The sale of the Pete Widener
ranch prompted 10 other nearby ranching families to donate
conservation easements on an additional 10,223 acres. That means
more than 14,000 acres will remain unavailable for subdividing.
Widener is an oilman who has lived in Sheridan for the past 25
years. He recently moved to Saratoga, Wyo.
unprecedented effort sets a statewide example of what a local group
of concerned ranchers can contribute to the long-term viability of
ranching, conservation of wildlife and sustaining the Wyoming way
of life," said Ben Pierce, director of the Wyoming chapter of The
Nature Conservancy in Lander.
easements prevent housing subdivisions, ensure continued
agricultural uses and conserve natural habitat connected to plant
and animal life.
The Nature Conservancy already
holds conservation easements on nearly 8,000 acres donated by three
ranchers in the Sheridan area, and more than 30,000 acres
One year ago, the conservancy
acquired the Red Canyon Ranch near Lander, a 35,000-acre spread
composed of 5,000 deeded acres and 30,000 leased federally owned
acres. Former Wyoming Stock Growers Association Director Bob Budd
manages that ranch (HCN, 2/7/94).
environmental organization, however, said it plans to resell the
Widener ranch to "conservation-oriented buyers."
According to Roger Wilson, a long-time Sheridan
resident and a local Department of Game and Fish employee, the
easements and the securing of the Widener ranch are pluses for
wildlife and for the community.
"When you think
of what this country will look like in 100 years, it is scary,"
Wilson said. "The land is just being nibbled away like a duck
nibbling at a piece of bread ... If we don't have habitat, we don't
A Sheridan County official said
she views the entire package as a positive
"I'm delighted the Widener ranch
went to the Nature Conservancy," said Eunice McEwan, a Sheridan
County commissioner. "I do not want to see anything along the face
of the (Big Horn) mountains developed."
that "some were worried" the land would be split into 35-acre
residential lots, or perhaps be sold to a movie
Another local official was less
enthusiastic, but said "time will tell" whether the trend towards
conservation easements is good for the county.
don't think it's bad necessarily," said Andrea DeBolt, director of
the Sheridan County Economic Development Association. "Who knows
how protective they will be? But we're used to regulations on
public land. And it is nice to know we can look up into the
foothills and see a gorgeous view."
McEwan said they approve of the general slow, cautious approach to
development that currently prevails in Sheridan. Both cited as a
positive example a 600-lot subdivision approved last week that
allows the construction of only 30 houses per year over the next 20
The easements appear to fall in line with
the county master plan, which says the county should "discourage
prime agricultural lands from development and encourage future
urban growth towards less productive areas."
ranches participating in the donations of easements are the Raid
Creek, Rapid Canyon, T Bar T, Beaver Creek and one ranch whose
owners preferred to remain
Collins reports for the Casper