Rangelands have many uses, such as acting as grazing land for livestock and recreational land for communities. Private rangeland owners can voluntarily enter into a legally binding conservation easement to limit the development of their land and preserve it for future generations.
The world population has exploded over the past century. We now have 7 billion people living on Earth, and the population is expected to grow to as much as 9.2 billion people by the year 2075. More people means the consumption of more natural resources and the conversion of previously undisturbed land into houses, neighborhoods, and cities. Without proper management and controls put in place, rich natural environments and wide-open spaces, such as ranchlands, could be lost for future generations. In this lesson, you will learn how landowners can enter into an agreement to voluntarily limit the development of their land to permanently protect its open spaces.
Rangeland is arid or semi-arid land that is well suited for grazing livestock. The lack of rainfall and typically poor soil quality make rangeland unfit for agriculture, but ideal for grazing livestock, which feed on the grass-like plants, forbs, and shrubs that grow easily in this environment. Livestock are not the only animals that benefit from the presence of rangeland, as this land provides appropriate habitats for wildlife.
Communities also benefit because rangelands provide watersheds, which are areas of land that drain rainfall or snowmelt into waterways, filtering out contaminants and pollutants that may otherwise find their way into the waterways. Rangeland also serves the surrounding communities by providing ample land for outdoor recreational opportunities, such as hiking, fishing, hunting, biking, and driving off-road vehicles. And, the open spaces and vast landscapes make rangelands an ideal setting for renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power.
Now, with urban sprawl pushing farther and farther into less developed land areas, there is a need to have some controls in place to avoid the destruction of privately-owned rangelands. This is where conservation easement comes into play. A conservation easement is a voluntary, but legally-binding agreement between a landowner and a land trust or official agency that limits certain uses or prevents development of the property to protect the land and its resources. Conservation easements are great tools that help preserve the natural and environmental benefits of the rangeland ecosystems for future generations.
By entering into this type of agreement, a landowner retains many private property rights and can continue to live on and use the land as they see fit, as long as it does not infringe on the terms of the agreement. For example, with a conservation easement the private rangeland owner may give up the right to subdivide or develop the land, but retain the right to use the land for ranching. Because conservation easements are set up in perpetuity, meaning for an indefinite duration, conservation easements are applicable to both current and future owners of the land.
Benefits of Conservation Easements
Private rangeland owners may acquire a conservation easement for different reasons, and there are a number of benefits of conservation easements. One of the most powerful benefits is that they protect wildlife habitats. Rangelands are home to various plant and animal species, and conservation easements have proven to be one of the most effective tools for the permanent protection of millions of acres of natural habitats and undeveloped spaces.
Conservation easements also protect resources. By preserving land in its natural state, pollutants and contaminates that can make their way into water, soil, or air from industrial practices or urban development are limited. These agreements also preserve the natural scenery of the area that is enjoyed by the direct community and surrounding areas. Because conservation easements are created for an indefinite time period, they protect the heritage for future generations who may wish to use the land for purposes such as cattle ranching. And, private rangeland owners often benefit directly from entering into a conservation easement due to the fact that there are often significant tax benefits for the landowner.
Let's review. Rangeland is arid or semi-arid land that is well suited for grazing livestock. Rangeland provides habitats for wildlife and also provides watersheds that help protect the surrounding area's water quality. Rangelands open up recreational opportunities, such as hiking, fishing, hunting, biking, and driving off-road vehicles. And, the open spaces provide the ideal setting for renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power.
A conservation easement is a voluntary, but legally-binding agreement between a landowner and a land trust or official agency that limits certain uses or prevents development of the property to protect the land and its resources. There are a number of benefits of conservation easements. Conservation easements protect wildlife habitats and protect resources, such as water, soil, and air quality. These agreements also preserve the natural scenery of the area and protect the heritage for future generations. Private rangeland owners often benefit directly from entering into a conservation easement through the offering of tax benefits for the landowner.
When you have finished this lesson, you should be able to:
- Define rangeland and understand why its conservation is important
- Explain what a conservation easement is
- Describe some of the benefits of conservation easements