McMeans Family Preserves Tongue River Acreage
In 2012, Mike and Vicky McMeans purchased 160 acres west of Dayton from Dan Scott, who had already placed the northern 80-acres under conservation easement. The McMeans immediately began conversations with Sheridan County and the Sheridan Community Land Trust (SCLT) to determine their options for protecting the remaining property along the Tongue River. “We wanted to make sure that the agricultural lands and riparian habitat that make this property special would be there forever,” said Vicky.
The McMeans chose to protect the remaining 80 acres with SCLT in coordination with Sheridan County’s conservation subdivision process, becoming the first landowners in Sheridan County to do so under new regulations conceptualized by Sheridan County in their 2008 Comprehensive Plan. The final regulations, adopted in 2012, were guided by community opinions voiced at multiple workshops held since 2009. The purpose of the conservation subdivision option is to allow creative design of conservation subdivisions as an alternative to conventional large-lot subdivisions. The option allows property owners to design subdivisions in order to maintain the open character and agricultural viability of the county’s agricultural and rural areas, continue the use of lands for agricultural and ranching activities, conserve riparian areas and other natural resources, such as wildlife habitat, and avoid placing residential buildings in floodplains or on steep slopes.
“We appreciate the McMeans for working with us to create the first conservation design subdivision in Sheridan County. Assisted by the SCLT, the McMeans have led the way for future conservation design subdivisions. This is another step in the implementation of the County Comprehensive Plan that protects and preserves the land use values held by our citizens”, said County Commission Chair Steve Maier.
By setting aside over 80% of the property for agricultural, open space, and habitat protection, the McMeans were able to retain three residential development envelopes within the conservation easement. “While we could have developed this property with a much higher density, our family made the decision to voluntarily restrict its development potential and protect the hay meadows and Tongue River corridor,” said Mike.
“The McMeans’ property is the initial gateway into Tongue River Canyon and represents a boundary between the town of Dayton and the rural acreages located upstream. We’re thrilled that they decided to preserve the agricultural values in perpetuity,” said SCLT Board Chair Margie Taylor.
Since being established in 2006, SCLT has been reaching out to landowners in the Tongue River Valley. Most recently, SCLT created the Tongue River Initiative (TRI), a more formal outreach effort in partnership with the Sheridan County Conservation District and The Nature Conservancy. TRI recognizes the important role agriculture has played in maintaining the natural resources, open spaces, and scenic values in the area with a goal of supporting and assisting landowners interested in looking at ways to integrate agriculture and natural resource conservation while economically benefitting ranching operations.
SCLT currently holds conservation easements that protect nearly 3000 acres along Little Goose Creek, McCormick Creek, the Tongue River, and Soldier Ridge as well as an historic preservation easement on the Historic Sheridan Inn and has created 4 miles of pubic trail along Soldier Ridge Trail west of Sheridan. SCLT partners with voluntary landowners to achieve conservation, historic preservation, and non-motorized recreation throughout Sheridan County.
Conservation Project Maximizes Public Benefit with New Trail
Sheridan Community Land Trust (SCLT) is pleased to announce their latest project, a partnership with landowner ERA Carroll Realty that protects nearly 3-miles of Soldier Ridge, a prominent landform beginning just west of the Sheridan City Limits. The project is comprised of two conservation easements totaling 1,154 private acres of coulees, upper grassland, and sagebrush habitat and includes three miles of publicly accessible non-motorized recreation trail along the ridgeline. The value of one conservation easement was donated by the landowner with the second conservation easement being purchased by SCLT. SCLT is also in the final stages of completing a connecting trail easement with the adjacent landowner Don Roberts Jr. which will ultimately link the Soldier Ridge trail into Sheridan’s Pathway system along West 5th Street. The Soldier Ridge project represents a year and a half’s worth of efforts by SCLT to generate support and funding from the community, state, and federal levels in order to complete this project.
“On behalf of the residents of Sheridan County, I would like to thank ERA Carroll Realty Co Inc. today for their decision to forego 14 homesites and instead create significant open space and perpetual benefit to this part of the county through these easements. Across the west, there are only a few communities with a non-motorized pathway that will rival this beautiful stretch of trail given by the landowner to Sheridan County for the public’s benefit. We couldn’t be more excited to complete this gift for future generations, said Margie Taylor, SCLT Board President.
This project was made possible with funding provided by the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (NRCS-FRPP), the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust (WWNRT), the S.K. Johnston Family Fund of the Wyoming Community Foundation, the Homer A. and Mildred S. Scott Foundation, multiple anonymous community foundations and individual donors. Most importantly, this project would not have happened without the largest portion of the combined easement values donated by landowner ERA Carroll Realty Co Inc.
ERA Carroll Realty Co Inc. partner Tom Belus explained the reason for their gift, “Dixie See, Jane Clark, and I are extremely pleased to make this donation as a perpetual benefit to the residents of Sheridan County. We have always believed personally and as a company in giving back to our community to enrich the quality of life we are so fortunate to enjoy in this place we call home.”
In addition to the above recognized financial contributors, SCLT would like to thank the following groups and entities that also supported SCLT’s work with this project: Sheridan County, the City of Sheridan, Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Pheasants Forever, Audubon, The Sonoran Institute, Cloud Peak Backcountry Horsemen, and the Sheridan YMCA.
The two conservation easements that make up the Soldier Ridge project are SCLT’s fourth and fifth conservation easements and include SCLT’s first purchased easement. It is a clear and tangible example of how SCLT works with local landowners and partners to achieve local goals with maximum local benefit. SCLT is currently working to establish trailheads to access the new trail and anticipate the public being able to enjoy it later this year.
The Sheridan Community Land Trust conserves and protects open space, wildlife habitat, agricultural land, recreational resources, and historic resources in Sheridan County. SCLT uses conservation easements and historic preservation easements to work with landowners in meeting their personal goals for their properties while accomplishing the land trust’s mission of maintaining and improving the quality of life in Sheridan County.
SCLT currently has conservation easements protecting over 2000 acres along Little Goose Creek, the Tongue River, and Soldier Ridge as well as an historic preservation easement on the Historic Sheridan Inn. In process are multiple projects reflecting the full scope and mission of the land trust.
Headwaters of McCormick Creek Protected
Sheridan Community Land Trust is thrilled to announce the donation of a conservation easement on 240 acres east of Big Horn, WY by landowner Charles Hart.
The conservation easement comprises the headwaters of McCormick Creek, a tributary to Little Goose Creek. The property consists of roughly 100 acres of productive irrigated agricultural lands, important riparian draws along McCormick Creek, and 140 acres of native rangeland and sagebrush habitat, important to a variety of ungulate species including elk and mule deer migrating through this area of the Bighorn foothills.
Charles Hart purchased the property in 1988 from long-time ranchers Cecil and Shelia Garber and has continued to improve the property’s productivity and overall wildlife habitat giving credence to the legacy established by Cecil and Sheila. Hart is quick to point to the Garber’s legacy laying the foundation for his decision to protect the property with a conservation easement, stating, QUOTE HERE
“On behalf of the residents of Sheridan County, I would like to thank Charlie for his vision and desire to protect a productive and beautiful acreage that epitomizes the working relationship between well-managed agriculture and wildlife habitat”, said Margie Taylor, Sheridan Community Land Trust Board President.
Hart’s McCormick Creek conservation easement is a key linkage for overall conservation in the Bighorn foothills area, linking two existing conservation easements for a total of 1,230 continguous acres permanently protected from development. The area is and will remain one of the most scenic and photographed landscapes at the foothills of Moncrieffe Ridge.
SCLT currently has an historic preservation easement on the Historic Sheridan Inn, and conservation easements protecting over 1000 acres in the Bighorn foothills, along Little Goose Creek and the Tongue River. In process are multiple easement, access, and historic-themed projects reflecting the full scope and mission of the land trust.
Leaving A Legacy
The Sheridan Community Land Trust (SCLT) is pleased to announce the completion of a conservation easement with John and Vanessa Buyok of Sheridan County, permanently protecting the Buyok’s 844-acre ranch along the Tongue River near the historic town site of Monarch. The Buyok’s donated the full value of the easement to SCLT who will be responsible for ensuring that future property owners uphold the terms of the easement. The Conservation Values of the property include open space, wildlife habitat, working agriculture, and scenic views. SCLT plans to hold a formal easement celebration on the property in early October.
The Buyok’s released the following statement regarding their decision to place a conservation easement on the property with SCLT:
“Although our ranch is small by Wyoming standards, we have been fortunate to share it with an amazing variety of wildlife and native plants. Sometimes being rich has nothing to do with money. We’re rich because of the biodiversity and productivity of our small corner of the planet along the Tongue River in Sheridan County. We want to do what little we can to ensure that it continues in the future. We hope we are only two of many landowners who will choose to preserve the Tongue River Valley through conservation easements similar to the one we are executing today.”
The Sheridan Community Land Trust is a non-profit organization that conserves open space, wildlife habitat, agricultural land, recreational resources, and historically significant properties in Sheridan County using both conservation easements and historic preservation easements. To accomplish this, SCLT works with willing landowners to meet their personal goals for conserving their property while accomplishing the land trust’s mission. SCLT also sponsors community workshops that promote conservation and preservation opportunities in support of Sheridan County’s Comprehensive Plan.