Park County Open Lands Secures First Easement
Less than a year into its existence, Park County Open Lands is pleased to announce the completion of its inaugural conservation easement. The Four C Ranch easement, spanning 364 acres, is located approximately 11 miles southwest of Cody. This conservation easement represents a significant milestone in realizing the community’s shared vision of conserving open space, agriculture, and wildlife habitat integral to the region’s natural and cultural heritage.
Situated at the crossroads of the rural residential areas of the Lower and Middle Southfork and the expansive ranchlands of the Middle and Upper Southfork, the Four C Ranch easement embodies the landowners’ commitment to limit subdivision and preserve the property’s working lands and agricultural heritage. By maintaining the continuity of ranchlands, Chuck and Marilyn Walker will leave a legacy of agriculture for the benefit of Park County.
A conservation easement is a voluntary transaction between a private landowner and a private entity, a land trust. With Park County Open Lands now in operation, landowners have an alternative to selling their land for development. Alex Few, the regional director of Park County Open Lands, expressed gratitude for the Walkers, saying, “I am grateful to the Walkers for being willing to share the success of this conservation easement and trusting Park County Open Lands to protect their working lands for future generations.”
The Four C Ranch boasts a landscape composed of diverse plant communities. It includes irrigated fields east of Marquette Creek and hilly pastures to the west, which offer habitat for mule deer, whitetails, antelope, sandhill cranes, and many more species. Nearly 1.5 miles of now-protected Marquette Creek provide important habitat for Yellowstone cutthroat trout while the cottonwood gallery along the creek banks supports migrating songbirds and birds of prey.
Chuck and Marilyn Walker were among the first landowners to approach Park County Open Lands about a potential conservation easement. “With the creation of Park County Open Lands, landowners in this county now have an opportunity to preserve the open space that makes Wyoming such a special place,” remarked Chuck. “Continuing growth threatens our private lands, which provide year-round grazing for resident and migratory wildlife herds, farming and ranching opportunities for the next generation, and open space for all to enjoy. The rate of population growth in the past few years has increased my sense of urgency. If we don’t do it, it won’t get done!”
By conserving the ranch, the landowners have partnered with Park County Open Lands to actively maintain wetland and riparian habitat, open space, grazing lands, and water quality that benefit wildlife and protect the cherished agricultural heritage of Park County. “Rural subdivision accumulates through time. It only moves in one direction,” said Jarren Kuipers, chair of the Park County Open Lands Advisory Council. “If the cherished values of the area are tied to open, rural, working landscapes, such as the Four C Ranch, then those values need to take priority to persist. What Mr. and Mrs. Walker chose to do was to make those values a priority for the benefit of current and future generations. For that, we are eternally grateful.”
This remarkable achievement would not have been possible without the generosity and foresight of the Walkers and the founding donors who helped turn Park County Open Lands from an idea into a reality.