Family Secures 113-Year-Old Ranching Tradition With Easement

NRCS funding is key to protecting more than 10,000 acres of wildlife habitat.

Published on: Feb 7, 2012

The Conservation Fund of Wyoming says it has assured the conservation and expansion of some of one of the oldest operating ranches held by one family in the Green River Valley.

A conservation easement will permanently protect the natural resources of more than 10,000 acres across two homestead ranches owned by the Espenscheid family near the town of Big Piney.

The Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust will be responsible for the long-term stewardship of the easements.

The Budd-Espenscheid family can date their Wyoming roots back to 1879, when Daniel B. Budd inherited a herd of cattle and settled along the Piney Creeks, where Big Piney is currently located.

In 1905, his son, John, established the family's first homestead ranch about nine miles west of town. Over the next 100 years, the family purchased additional properties nearby. Today, Budd Ranches, Inc., is owned and managed by brothers Chad and Brian Espenscheid and their wives, Gudrid and Annie, the family's fourth generation of ranchers.

The land easement will enable the family to continue ranching while protecting wildlife habitat in the Green River Valley.

The family approached The Conservation Fund with a bold vision to significantly expand their ranch's size by purchasing the neighboring ranch and funding the purchase with the sale of a conservation easement on both properties, explains Luke Lynch, fund director.

"It's a complicated strategy, but together with WSGALT and other partners, we rose to the challenge and designed a unique conservation plan to protect the land and accomplish the landowners' goals," he notes.

The Land Trust is dedicated to conservation thorough ranching and holds almost 170,000 acres of working lands under easement. Founded in 2000 by the 140-year-old WSGA, the Land Trust is the 9th largest of 1,659 regional land trusts in the United States.

The Conservation Fund and others launched an initiative in 2008 to conserve and enhance key wildlife habitat and agricultural lands in Wyoming's Upper Green River Valley. To date, the fund has worked to conserve and enhance more than 25,000 acres in the valley.