The conversion of family farms and ranches to non-agricultural uses poses one of the greatest threats to the integrity of small rural communities across the American West. The Trust's Farms & Ranchlands Program provides an opportunity for families committed to agriculture to derive economic value by donating or selling Conservation Easements. Those who find themselves in need of selling part or all of the family spread for economic or other reasons may find Conservation Easements a better option, as they can retain ownership and keep their property in agricultural use.
Typically, the Trust secures an agricultural Conservation Easement for the property. This will ensure that it remains in agricultural use in perpetuity, regardless of the ultimate owner or manager.
Occasionally the Trust will purchase agricultural lands fee title, and apply a Conservation Easement to the deed.
In some cases, the Trust may act as a bridge for another family or private party to acquire the property, or perhaps hold title and contract out management responsibilities to another local organization. Establishment of grassbanks and/or range reserves is also possible. In certain situations the Trust might run an outfit itself, perhaps in conjunction with particular scientific or educational interests. The overall program emphasis is toward continued, local family-owned operations.
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