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From Texas to Tech, Home at the Four C

Chuck and Marilyn Walker are the first landowners to protect their land through a conservation easement held by Park County Open Lands. Read Chuck’s story for a glimpse into why protecting the Four C for future generations is so important to him and his family.

The ranch in Texas came into our family in 1857 as settlement for a debt owed to my great-grandparents. My grandfather ranched it full-time, but by the time my Dad came along, he could no longer make a living on it, so he kept the ranch going and had a wholesale building materials business in town. When I came along, he told me I’d better get a good education and a good job because the ranch was no longer viable. We had development all around us, and city neighbors were dumping garbage and trash over the fences and poaching wildlife. I did as suggested and, after an MBA from Stanford, worked for Hewlett-Packard Co. for 30 years. When the last remnants of the ranch were sold in 1994, we took our portion of the proceeds and bought the ranch here in Cody.

Why Cody? As a young adult beginning my career at HP in the Bay Area, I began hunting antelope and elk in Wyoming as a non-resident. Back in the late 60s and early 70s, it was easy to draw licenses, so it became an annual pilgrimage to the Red Desert for antelope and to the Wyoming Range west of Bondurant for elk. I fell in love with the beauty of the country, the wide open spaces, and the low population density. After 30 years at HP, I took early retirement and got back into ranching. You know the old saying, “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” Having bought our place here in 1994 (almost 30 years ago), I’ve watched the growth in Cody consume productive ag land with alarming speed. The session conducted by Jessica Crowder September a year ago at the Cody Club Room, highlighting the benefits of conservation easements, struck a chord with me based on what had happened in Texas. It also introduced me to Jarren Kuipers and PCOL. Following the meeting, I asked Jarren to come look at the ranch and let me know if it would qualify for a conservation easement. He brought Ellen Incelli and Steffan Freeman out for a visit and all were very encouraging. My next step was to have Tony Mong and Grant Gerharter come out and get their take on preserving the land for wildlife habitat. With their encouragement and the blessing of our son and his family, I made the decision to pursue it. My Dad had always told us kids that our grandfather wanted the Texas ranch to be preserved for his grandchildren. He died in 1954 when I was 10 years old. That didn’t happen, so in some ways conserving this ranch fulfills his wish for the next generation. I’m an incurable romantic… this decision makes me feel good inside.

-Chuck Walker