The Teton Regional Land Trust announced this week that it recently closed on two conservation easements, one in the Parker area and another near Victor.

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement that limits certain uses of the land, such as large scale development, in order to conserve the natural and traditional values of the land. Landowners receive compensation for granting conservation easements to protect the resources of their property for perpetuity while retaining the rights of private ownership. Conservation easements stay with the land forever.

The Parker property, west of St. Anthony, involves 44 acres with three-quarters of a mile of Henry’s Fork river frontage, along with upland bench farmland, the Land Trust announced. The property is owned by Mike and Sheralee Lawson. Mike Lawson founded Henry’s Fork Anglers 42 years ago and is the organization’s current general manager.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Mike Lawson said in a news release. “It’s about maintaining a way of life. Ensuring farming and ranching remains part of the landscape. We wanted to conserve the property to be a part of maintaining the character of the area. Having grown up in the area, I’ve seen the development happen slowly over time, but in recent years I’ve really come to see how much of the farmland, ranchland and wildlife habitat has been lost to development.”

The Victor area easement involves the 21-acre Teton Full Circle Farm northeast of Victor between the Targhee National Forest and Victor city limits. The certified organic small farm owned by Erika Eschholz and Ken Michael represents “farmland and open space, along with habitat for big game, songbirds and raptors from the neighboring forest. Wildlife is spotted frequently on the property,” according to the Land Trust. The farm markets its produce through the Community Supported Agriculture program, local farmers markets and wholesale customers.

Eschholz and Michael agreed to the conservation easement because they wanted the land to remain farmland.

“The permanent protection of farmland supports local food, young farmers, healthy ecosystems, healthy lifestyles, and community,” the pair said in a statement released by the Land Trust. “The funds from the conservation easement payment will go directly to pay off our farm loan which will allow us to put future farm-generated income into building a new farm sooner versus later. To top it off, because this land cannot be developed, it will be much more affordable for the next farmer.”

The Teton Regional Land Trust focuses on conserving working farms and ranches, fish and wildlife habitat and scenic open spaces in eastern Idaho. Since 1995, the organization has worked to protect more than 33,000 acres, according to its website, tetonlandtrust.org.

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