The Northwest Rangeland Trust (NWRT) has closed on a conservation easement on 142 acres of agricultural land in Thurston County. The property is part of the McKenzie Family, LLC Ranch near the town of Yelm. WA. The purchase of the easement was funded by Thurston County Conservation Futures Funds, a Thurston County Program overseen by the Thurston County Commissioners, and the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) a federal program administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
The conservation easement will ensure that this privately owned agricultural land, currently being used as a cattle ranch, will remain as agricultural property in perpetuity. The property is highly desirable for residential development and has repeatedly faced the threat of development. In addition to retiring the development rights on 142 acres of the most desirable development sites of the 205 acre parcel, the conservation easement provides for a management plan that will ensure best practices are implemented in the operation of the ranch. NWRT will monitor the property annually to ensure the terms and conditions of the easement are adhered to. Alan McKenzie, the Managing Partner of McKenzie Family LLC, stated, "With this easement in place, I feel as though I have come full circle. My Great Grandparents homesteaded here in the 1870's and I am sure they are smiling down upon me, now that I have preserved their dream forever."
The McKenzie Project is the first easement purchased in the State of Washington by the Oregon Rangeland Trust (ORT) doing business as Northwest Rangeland Trust. ORT/NWRT is a 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation that operates in the States of Washington and Oregon. The mission of the Northwest Rangeland Trust is to help Washington and Oregon ranch and farm landowners protect and preserve the long-term viability of their ecologically significant private lands. At this time NWRT holds easements on 11,942 acres of property in the two States. Currently NWRT is working on two other projects in Thurston County. NWRT Board of Directors Chairman Tom Price stated, “The NWRT is an agricultural based conservation organization that emerged from our State Cattlemen’s associations. Our purpose is to help Ranchers and Farmers keep their land in production and avoid the need to divide it. We are most pleased to have provided assistance to complete the McKenzie easement. We continue to offer assistance to our agricultural neighbors who are contemplating conservation easements as a financial alternative to subdivision.”
Conservation Futures is a land preservation program that protects, preserves, maintains, improves, restores, and limits the future use of threatened areas of open space, timberlands, wetlands, habitat areas, culturally significant sites, and agricultural farmlands within Thurston County. Conservation Futures funds, acquired through a property tax levy, are used to purchase the land or the rights to future development of the land. In 1989, Thurston County became one of the first counties in the state to implement the tax levy and has been collecting it ever since. The funding, identified in the budget as Conservation Futures, is budgeted annually by the Thurston County Board of County Commissioners. “My fellow Commissioners and I have made it a top priority to preserve agricultural land and habitat, especially when it’s a legacy farm like the McKenzie Ranch. This farm has been in our community for over 100 years, and this easement ensures that it will be here for another 100 years,” said Sandra Romero, Chair of the Board.
The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program provides matching funds to help purchase conservation easements to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses. Working through existing programs, USDA partners with State, tribal, or local governments and non-governmental organizations to acquire conservation easements or other interests in land from landowners. USDA provides up to 50 percent of the fair market easement value of the conservation easement. In the State of Washington FRPP has funded almost 150 projects purchasing easements on almost 15,000acres. This is the first easement purchase funded with FRPP funds to close in Thurston County. “NRCS is happy to see FRPP expand to protect farmland in Thurston County”, says Monica Hoover, FRPP Program Coordinator.
December 28, 2013/Northwest Rangeland Trust Press Release