By The Nature Conservancy, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, and The Climate Trust
Lightning Creek Ranch owners the Probert family, led by Dan and Suzy Probert, have teamed up with The Nature Conservancy, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and The Climate Trust to ensure their 12,225-acre ranch will be managed to benefit both ranching livelihoods and the native habitat and wildlife it supports. The Probert's have sold an agricultural conservation easement on the property that will prohibit tilling or energy development on the native grassland, while allowing the property to be used for livestock grazing that follows a grazing management plan.
“Wallowa County is a very special and unique place, and I believe it is absolutely critical that we protect our resources for future generations,” said Dan Probert. “Because of this agricultural conservation easement, Lightning Creek Ranch will always remain a working ranch while also protecting some of the most beautiful and ecologically important lands in the country.”
“We know grazing is an important factor for grassland conservation,” said Jeff Fields, Zumwalt Project Manager for The Nature Conservancy in Oregon. “On large landscapes like Zumwalt Prairie, native species thrive with occasional disturbance, such as fire and grazing. Just like fire, it is critical that grazing happens under the right timing and intensity, which is what we guide with our grazing management plans on these easements.”
“Lightning Creek Ranch is the first grasslands project to join our Climate Trust Capital Fund I portfolio, and we are elated to be able to provide capital to this charismatic project in our own backyard,” said Mik McKee, Land Asset Manager for The Climate Trust. “The environmental benefits to be gained from preserving native grasslands are vast, with impacts ranging from improved water quality and soil erosion prevention to the safeguarding of carbon stored in the ground. This investment-grade project reflects our ongoing strategy of supporting quality projects in the early stages of development to elevate their impact.”
“The ACEP-ALE program is a critical tool in our toolbox to sustain pristine, working grasslands of special significance in the Zumwalt Prairie landscape while supporting the rural economy,” said NRCS Oregon State Conservationist Ron Alvarado. “The Lightning Creek Ranch ALE easement expands connectivity with other NRCS conservation programs in the Zumwalt Prairie, such as a multiyear, $3.1 million Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) project awarded this year, with The Nature Conservancy as the lead partner. The RCPP funding will help private landowners maintain and improve soil heath through innovative on-farm conservation practices and permanent ALEs, ensuring productive agricultural lands are never converted to other uses.”
“Ranch real estate values in Wallowa County and in other scenic areas are valued far above a fair market value for a ranching enterprise,” Probert said. “By granting the development rights to The Nature Conservancy, we were able to reduce the land cost to one that is manageable for our family. If we, as ranchers and farmers, want our children to be able to afford a farm or ranch and remain land owners rather than tenants on "legacy" ranches, then we need to find a way to reduce land costs to our heirs. Conservation easements are a great way to do this while ensuring the Zumwalt Prairie remains an intact grassland with the same characteristics that make us proud to call this beautiful place home.”Image credit: Flickr/J. Stephen Conn
Kasey Krifka is the Senior Marketing Communications Manager for The Climate Trust