Skip and Maria Eastman purchased the Oxbow Ranch with the goal of re-establishing a family presence on the land. The Stock Growers Land Trust worked with the Eastmans to complete a conservation easement on roughly 500 acres of working ag land. Skip and Maria recognize the value of agricultural lands to wildlife and are committed to keeping the land open. The conservation easement will help the ranch to remain a viable operation, and allow for the continuation of its agricultural, community, and wildlife values. It is the first conservation easement held by the Stock Growers Land Trust in Big Horn County.
Maria said, “We believe it is important for some of us to return to the land, become producers, and to help to re-invigorate rural communities and economies. To that end, our family purchased the ranch seven years ago; and as a family, we’re committed to keeping it in sustainable agricultural production.”
Hay is the primary crop raised on the Oxbow Ranch, with winter feeding and grazing for cattle. The majority of the hay crop is sold locally to neighboring ranch operations. Skip said, “We are fortunate to live in a great community. Even though we’re not close together, we are surrounded by wonderful people and neighbors around the valley.
Skip and Maria donated a portion of the easement’s value, with funds for the remainder of the purchase provided by the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Farm and Ranch Protection Program, and the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust.
“This easement is another example of forward-thinking Wyoming producers, using NRCS Farm Bill programs to help them maintain a viable agriculture operation”, said Paul Shelton, acting State Conservationist for the NRCS in Wyoming. “In addition, it further demonstrates the wonderful partnership that the NRCS enjoys with the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust.”
Located along the Nowood River between Hyattville and Manderson, the Oxbow Ranch is adjacent to vast areas of public land including the Cloud Peak Wilderness area. The ranch provides a critical corridor that allows wildlife access to the river.
“This project provided a great amount of opportunity, especially for the aquatic species in the Nowood River,” said Bob Budd, Executive Director of the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust. “It is also a great demo site for the effects of Salt Cedar and Russian Olive removal and the restoration of a riparian habitat.”