Ranchers interested in placing land under conservation easement in California have found that working with a diverse group of governmental and nongovernmental partners has been critical to successfully moving their projects forward and maintaining their goals for the property. Creativity in working with these groups, including conservation groups who target prime habitat and other rangeland resources to protect species habitat – can improve access to funding and the chances of keeping the land as a viable ranch for future generations. Often times, the agreement that leads to cooperation is helping those entities to recognize that the stewardship of the rancher on their land already supports their conservation goals.
In July of 2007, Bruce Hafenfeld, a rancher on the South Fork of the Kern River, closed a conservation easement on his property that was supported by a number of conservation organizations and made unprecedented partnerships with federal agencies. Not only has a new blueprint emerged for private property owners to work with these agencies, but Hafenfeld was also able to acquire funding for the project through unconventional methods. Hafenfeld’s efforts have opened new opportunities for ranchers throughout the nation, helping to make ranching conservation easements an accepted method for mitigating harmful activities to threatened and endangered species.
This 140-acre easement project mitigated adverse affects on the habitat for the South Western Willow Flycatcher and brought together the following agencies and conservation groups to come to this win-win conservation solution: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Natural Recourse Conservation Service, Audubon Society and California Rangeland Trust.