mule deer file

Mule deer stand against the snowy landscape of the High Plains Research Station on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, west of Cheyenne. Similar in appearance to their cousin, the white-tailed deer, mule deer are larger and have a black tip on their white tail, according to Rocky Mountain National Park experts. Wyoming Tribune Eagle/file

CHEYENNE – Adding to the 34,000 acres of conserved land in Laramie County, a ranch directly adjacent to Curt Gowdy State Park has entered into a conservation easement that protects wildlife habitats, water quality and 560 acres of agricultural land.

With the conservation easement, the land at the Jaw Bone Gulch Ranch will remain agricultural and cannot be developed, even if it is sold in the future. Guy Landers, a trustee of the ranch, said the easement not only conserves water quality, but also has benefits for the agriculture and tourism industries in the state.

“I think it benefits the whole state of Wyoming,” Landers said. “People don’t come here to see subdivisions. They come to see wide open spaces.”

The easement came about because of a desire to protect the land and its history. Landers said his great-grandparents moved to the Granite Lake area in 1877, before Granite Lake even existed.

“We’ve been in the area ever since, and we just thought that heritage needed to be preserved,” Landers said.

One major benefit of the ranch’s preservation is to the city of Cheyenne’s water supply. The property is nestled between Granite and Crystal reservoirs and helps protect the water quality in Cheyenne.

“Part of the easement sits right in the Cheyenne watershed of the two lakes,” Landers said.

The new agreement prevents that watershed from being subdivided.

Eric Schacht, executive director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust, said a number of new subdivisions have been developed in the area around the ranch. According to him, the runoff from similar developments on Landers’ property could have also had an effect on the city’s water quality.

Thanks to the conservation easement, the land will remain agricultural for years to come. Not only will it protect the water supply, but it also preserves habitats for animals in the area.

“The wildlife habitat there is really important,” Schacht said. “It’s directly adjacent to the state park.”

On the ranch, animals like mule deer thrive, and Landers said antelope and moose occasionally make appearances.

“The mule deer have their fawns here,” Landers said. “It’s just a win-win for the wildlife.”

With conservation easements, the landowners are paid an appraised value for the property, and the funding for this project came from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and The Conservation Fund.

Landers said they will use those funds as a financial resource, and they hope to purchase more land in the future.

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter @MargaretMAustin.

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