A conservation easement funded in part by the NRCS-led Sage Grouse Initiative will protect some of the best habitat in California for mule deer, waterfowl, migratory songbirds, and sage grouse.
The Sceirine family has run a successful ranching business for three generations. Photo: ESLT
The Eastern Sierra Land Trust (ESLT) announced the completion of their largest conservation easement to date on Sceirine Point Ranch, showcasing how conservation and sustainable agriculture work together. Owners Joe and David Sceirine have sold an agricultural conservation easement of 2,375 acres that will protect native grassland, the greater sage-grouse and mule deer, while allowing the property to be used for livestock grazing.
For three generations, the Sceirine family has owned and operated a successful beef cattle ranching business in Bridgeport Valley, an emerald valley crowned by the peaks of Yosemite National Park located between the ghost town of Bodie and Yosemite National Park. This high mountain meadow is laced with creeks and wetlands, providing a haven for diverse wildlife such as mule deer, waterfowl, migratory songbirds, and some of the best habitat in California for the greater sage-grouse.
“We wanted to maintain our identity and preserve our lifestyle as cowboys and ranchers,” said David Sceirine. “It is my dream that three generations from now, Sceirine descendants not even born yet, will be able to own and work this land to continue with our family legacy.”
Conservation easements protect land for future generations while ensuring owners retain certain property rights. Easements are individually tailored to meet a landowner’s goals and the conservation values of the land. Because the land remains in private ownership, an agricultural easement property continues to provide economic benefits for the region in the form of jobs, productivity, and property taxes.
Much of the funding for this project was provided by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. NRCS provides financial and technical resources that help landowners and partners protect the nation’s most productive grasslands, wetlands, and agricultural lands by providing funding to purchase easements on private working lands.
NRCS’ Agricultural Conservation Easement Program that protects grasslands of special significance was an ideal funding vehicle for Sceirine Point Ranch because of the habitat the ranch provides for Bi-State greater sage-grouse. It is the first of several pending projects using NRCS funds through the Sage Grouse Initiative, which come from the 2014 Farm Bill.
Additional funding was secured from the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program, part of California Climate Investments, and from California Deer Association.
“It is such an incredible victory to secure the protection of Sceirine Point Ranch for economic sustainability and the breathtakingly scenic Bridgeport Valley,” said Kay Ogden, Executive Director of ESLT. “We are extremely grateful to the Sceirine family’s long-term vision and all our partners for their dedication to preserve this historic working ranch and important home for wildlife for generations to come.”
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