Land Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture

Land conservation and sustainable agriculture

Bi-State Conservation Easements

A conservation easement is a voluntary land protection agreement between a private landowner and a land trust such as ESLT. It permanently protects the unique resources and conservation values found on a property – such as its scenic, wildlife, agricultural, ecological, or recreational qualities.

A conservation easement allows the owner to retain title and management of his or her land, while designating how the land will be used now and in the future. Every easement is different, customized to the specific needs and desires of the landowner. But practically and legally, easements typically restrict certain land developments, such as subdivision for residential or commercial activities, industrial uses, and surface mining.

Conservation easements must accomplish at least one of these three conservation purposes:

  • Protection of open space (including farmland, ranchland and forestland)
  • Protection of a relatively natural habitat for fish, wildlife or plants, or a similar ecosystem
  • Preservation of lands for education or outdoor recreation of the general public

A conservation easement is an extension of private property rights, and can be a valuable tool for private landowners who want to retain ownership of their property. Once in place, the conservation easement guarantees that the land’s conservation values will be protected forever, even with a change in ownership. The easement is recorded as part of the property deed and public record. View the location of Bi-State conservation easements through the National Conservation Easement Database's interactive map feature.

Regional Conservation Partnership Program Funding:

Through a multi-partnership effort, which included Mono County, Eastern Sierra Land Trust received a selective portion of the RCPP for the Bi-State region in conservation efforts for Bi-State Sage-Grouse habitat rejuvenation. Landowners in portions of Inyo, Mono, and Alpine Counties of California. The project area for the RCPP is the same as that covered by the Bi-State Action Plan’s Population Management Units for sage-grouse, an area of 7,000 square miles. Financial assistance through RCPP will be awarded directly from NRCS to landowners who plan to carry out projects that will benefit the goals of this RCPP.

Operators are given financial assistance to plan and adopt conservation practices that will restore sage-grouse and other wildlife habitat, improve agricultural water quality, conserve private ranchlands, and upgrade agricultural infrastructure. Awarded a total of $8 million in NRCS funding, the funds will be allocated as $7,235,000 going to agricultural and wetlands conservation easement purchases; the remaining $765,000 will be applied to Environmental Quality Incentives Program projects. EQIP projects include many aspects, such as more efficient irrigation technologies, creating a secondary conservation measure.

Primarily, funds will cover the costs of conservation easements in the Bi-State area that will protect wetlands, conserve sage-grouse habitat, and safeguard productive lands against the threat of development or conversion of grasslands, including dryland range and irrigated pasture. RCPP activities related to Bi-State sage-grouse habitat are prioritized based on Bi-State Action Plan recommendations. Many of the lands will also follow a similar rubric to Conservation Easement criteria.

The duration of the RCPP is August 2017-June 2022. Visit ESLT's website for more information.

Sustainable Agriculture

Traditionally, there has been a conflicting view between agriculture and wildlife, though there are actions available that create a symbiotic relationship. A major success with the Bi-State Sage-Grouse was the development of an alternative to listing by supporting needed conservation direction. This created the Bi-State Action Plan, a collaborative effort between local city, county, and federal entities.

Though grazing was considered a low priority within the Bi-State Action plan, with data compiled , there is a better understanding of habitat range and how to manage grazing in correspondence with wildlife protection.  This has built a consensus that properly managed land is mutually beneficial, especially compared to land fragmentation where habitat is destroyed.

Efforts made to increase viable habitat within grazing allotments includes modification of 35 allotments, covering more than one-million acres, to include terms and conditions that benefit sage grouse habitat by adjusting seasons of use, permit numbers, and limiting use levels. Additionally, on private lands, there have been efforts to implement perch deterrents and install either fence markings or appropriate let-down fences.