Closing Day is always special. If you have ever bought a home or land, you know the mix of excitement, anxiousness and relief it brings. The same is true on Closing Day for conservation easements, too. Less than a month ago, those feelings were renewed as Mike Mitzel and his family closed on the 2M Farms Conservation Easement. This Closing Day was especially inspiring, because the story of the Mitzel family’s choice to conserve their land is the story of why conservation matters so much.

2M Farms encompasses 420 acres outside of Leiter. About 240 acres are irrigated, with the rest a mix of sagebrush and grassland. Clear Creek flows for about two miles through the property. The Mitzels employ a mix of rotational grazing and irrigated alfalfa hay grown on site to feed about 140 cows year-round. Each spring, calves are born. They are weaned and sold each fall. A garden area
and greenhouses produce specialty crops. 2M Farms is the dictionary definition of a family ranch. And because of the conservation easement, it will remain a family ranch for generations to come.

“It had always been my dream to own and operate an agricultural operation and when the opportunity came to purchase the family ranch I had to find a way to make it happen,” Mike said. “As I began operating, I started to realize that this land is only mine for a certain period of time and I needed to be a good steward of the land. Making it a more productive and sustainable operation for now and future generations became increasingly important to me. I saw a conservation easement as an integral tool to help make that a

Mike first contacted SCLT about an easement five years ago. Together, we chose to pursue a bargain sale easement. The sale’s proceeds allow Mike to pay down debt he incurred to purchase the family ranch which ensures his children – and one day their children – have the opportunity to continue the family business in the future.

“Conserving the land through an easement means it will help ensure that it is protected for my kids to someday enjoy,” Mike reasoned. “It will remain an agricultural operation with the resources of the land protected to ensure it can stay productive.”

For the Mitzels, it is about more than just the ag business – it is about the land that allows three generations of family to live, work and play together. “The land has come to mean a lot to my family,” he says. Clear Creek and it’s tremendous water is at the heart of all they do. It waters their cattle and helps grow great hay. Spectacular fishing and fun floats abound. A myriad of birds, big game and
not-so-big game also call their land home. And the views are tremendous. “The scenery all around is fantastic, the views of the Bighorn Mountains and the surrounding valley tapering into the prairie never get old,” Mike says.

Without an easement, 2M Farms’ future would be far less certain. “It helps provide a path forward. It clearly defines some of the vision and direction for the future. This easement is an essential piece for the future of the family ranch,” Mike concluded.

That is exactly the kind of future for family ranches you help create with your generosity. More working lands can stay working for more Sheridan County families for generations to come. But many of those family ranches cannot stay working without your support.