In order to sustain the open vistas of their historic ranch, a multigenerational North Platte Valley family has entered 2,035 acres of working ranchland into a conservation easement. The land supports a thriving cattle operation, sage grouse habitat and more than 100 years of family history.
The Mowry Ranch is a traditional operation located in the heart of Nebraska's North Platte Valley and plays a key role in maintaining continuity of habitat and open space between public and private lands.
"I enjoy the openness of our ranch and the sense of freedom I have,” Suzanne Mowry says. “It’s important to us, as well as our children, to keep the land forever in agriculture.”
The ranch has been in the Mowry family for more than 100 years and is now run by multiple generations. Dick and Suzanne, son Shane and daughter-in-law Lacy run the operation together. Shane and Lacy’s children are the fifth generation of Mowrys stewarding the land and carrying on the history of the ranch and the area.
“Family lore has it that my grandmother’s father, John Brewer, was the first white man to winter in the North Platte Valley,” Dick says.
While celebrating the past, the Mowry family also looks to the future. In 2009, the family approached the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust (SGALT) about protecting their ranch through a conservation easement. As with most of today’s ranch families, the Mowrys were faced with the dilemma of how to pass the place on to the next generation without a huge tax liability. The family found their solution by selling a conservation easement on their property. 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.
"We want to keep the land from being subdivided and to preserve the wide-open spaces of the area,” Dick says. "The SGLAT chose to purchase the easement based on several key agricultural and wildlife values on the land."
“The Mowry Ranch is a wonderful example of a highly productive working ranch that supports a multigenerational family and provides incredible wildlife habitat,” says Leah Burgess, SGALT representative.
The Mowry Ranch lies within a Sage Grouse Core Area, and embraces migration routes of antelope, mule deer and elk. The ranch encompasses several miles of streams, and provides high-quality habitat for a variety of wildlife species, including 26 species of greatest conservation need, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
More than 75% of the ranch is irrigated meadow and riparian corridor; this extensive irritated ground is notably unique in this high-mountain valley.
The historic Cherokee Trail bisects the property and Native American artifacts can be found across the ranch. A unique horse barn circa 1890 graces the headquarters area and was featured in a past Carbon County Historic Barn Tour.
From the property’s west border, Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service land runs contiguously to the Continental Divide Trail and beyond. Adjacent to the southern border of the ranch is Indian Rocks Ranch, which is already protected through a conservation easement.
Funding for the Mowry Ranch conservation easement came from the Natural Resources Conservation Service Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust and the Gates Frontiers Fund. The Mowry family also contributed more than 25% of the value of the conservation easement.
The SGALT purchase of the easement will help the Mowry Family retire their debt and provide dollars for further investment on the operation.
“This conservation easement will help us salvage the future of the ranch,” Suzanne Mowry says. “I hope more people will conserve their property. I think it’s really important.”