A young Wyoming ranching family will continue to grow a livelihood in agriculture thanks in part to a newly completed conservation effort with the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust and The Conservation Fund.

Kasey and Ondi Shepperson welcomed the closing of two purchased conservation easements on 13,857 acres of their Hat Two Ranch northwest of Meeteetse. The first easement covers the majority of the total conserved acreage and the second covers a small commercial gravel pit, which will later be reclaimed.

Both Kasey and Ondi grew up in ranching families and have worked diligently to continue making a living on the land. The couple purchased the property for the Hat Two Limited Partnership in 2003 and moved from the Beaver Rim area between Shoshoni and Casper with their children Shawn, now 13 years old and Lauran, now 8 years old. The family later welcomed another child, Shanan, now 2 years old.

“Ranching is all we ever wanted to do,” Kasey Shepperson says.

The Shepperson Family runs a cow-calf operation and raises 400 acres of hay. The family plans to stay on the ranch long term and the conservation easement will keep the land available to pass on to their children. Kasey and Ondi chose to enter into the conservation easements after the value of their land continued to increase and they were turning away offers to sell the land. They wanted to reduce the monetary value of the property and retain the ranching value. As part of the purchased easement agreement, the Shepperson Family contributed a significant portion of the value of the easement.

“Our primary values were to make the ranch more cost effective and provide something for our kids,” Kasey says. “The easement will allow us to pass on the property to our children faster and easier. It will also reduce mortgage demands, lessening the need to graze the property at full capacity.”

The ranchland is also host to many agricultural and wildlife values. Cattle and wildlife are supported by the many water features on the ranch, including the Greybull River which borders the property. The ranch consists of floodplain and river riparian areas, high plains with rolling hills and sagebrush steppe vegetation. The diverse landscapes provide productive agricultural lands and important habitats for pronghorn antelope, mule deer, elk, sage grouse and Yellowstone cutthroat trout. A portion of the ranch is considered a core sage grouse area and at least three leks (breeding grounds) are located on deeded lands.

The Hat Two Ranch conservation easements will also protect the work done by Trout Unlimited on the conservation of fish habitat.

The Hat Two conservation easements offer unbroken, open spaces by connecting Bureau of Land Management land, state-owned land and the Hat Two Ranch. The Shepperson Family helps steward these public lands through their grazing leases and the connected land provides open views of the Bighorn Basin and the Greybull River floodplain.

The purchased easement will allow the Shepperson family to put dollars back into the community while making improvements on their land. Kasey and Ondi hope to move ahead with plans for drilling a new well, installing pipeline and building new fence. They also plan to eventually lease additional lands to increase the size of the operation while reducing the herd on the deeded property.

“Ultimately, the easement will provide for more financial and management flexibility on the ranch, likely improving the natural resources on the property,” Kasey says.

Financial contributions toward the Hat Two Ranch conservation easements were made by Natural Resources Conservation Service Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, The Conservation Fund and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Conservation easements are legal, voluntary agreements between landowners and qualified conservation organizations which permanently restrict the type and amount of development that occurs on private property. For more info, contact the Stock Growers Ag Land Trust at 307-772-8751 or info@wsgalt.org
-- Stock Growers Ag land Trust release