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Elk Mountain Sage-grouse Habitat Conserved

Photo by Brent Lathrop/The Nature Conservancy.

A fifth-generation Wyoming rancher, John Johnson, did not want to see his family property subdivided or commercially developed. “Conservation easements help preserve critically important tracts of land from fragmentation; an important component in keeping the sage grouse habitat sound,” he said. “They are good tools in helping keep ranches intact and viable for future generations.”

With help from the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program offered by the NRCS and funding from other partners, the Nature Conservancy was able to protect in 2012 an additional 960 acres of the Johnson Ranch in Carbon County. The new conservation easement connects to a 6,120-acre easement secured with the Conservancy in 2010.

Located near Wyoming’s iconic Elk Mountain, the ranch hosts important sage-grouse habitat and is a long-time agricultural operation. The easements protect against subdivision and industrial wind development, while maintaining a ranching way of life.

Greater sage-grouse are active on the Johnson Ranch, with three leks located nearby.

“This is a real win-win for conservation and ranching,” says Brent Lathrop, Southeast Wyoming program director for the Conservancy. “With sage-grouse having such high-visibility in the West right now, this project really showcases how we can all come together to improve conditions for sage-grouse while also keeping family ranches in business.”

Johnson said, “I believe we can help keep the best stewards on the land, preserve Wyoming's crucial sagebrush steppe and ensure that one of the most iconic birds of the Rocky Mountain region thrive and stay off the endangered species list.”

The easement covers 7.4 miles of the Medicine Bow River and 4.6 miles of Wagonhound Creek. These streams, and many other natural attributes of the property, help the Johnsons supplement their cow-calf operation with leases to hunters and fly-fishing enthusiasts.

Several important funders helped this project come to fruition: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Governor’s Big Game License Coalition and the Wyoming Game and Fish Trust. The Johnson family also made a generous donation that was matched by the Knobloch Foundation.

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