Why Protect Open Space?
We are fortunate to live in an area that possesses tremendous natural resources, including the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. Within our White Mountains communities, we have rivers, streams, wetlands, meadows, and forests.
These areas are important links to our larger public and reservation lands; wildlife migrate from the lower elevation grasslands in winter to the high elevation forests in summer. Streams that flow through private, state, and federal land can be greatly impacted by development.
Ensuring that wildlife needs are met and that our rivers continue to flow are just part of our goal. Our members believe our human residents want to maintain the quality of life here in the White Mountains, and that includes seeing wildlife, visiting and recreating in our streams and forests, and simply enjoying the view of our magnificent mountains.
Open Space Benefits
Wildlife Habitat— Wildlife need all our diverse habitats of forests, meadows, wetlands, and streams in large enough patches to survive. Links from one habitat to another and migration corridors are also important factors in maintaining healthy wildlife populations.
Clean Water—Protected streams and wetlands help filter pollutants, recharge groundwater, and ensure that our water table does not diminish due to overpumping.
Recreation Opportunities—Trails, parks and public access to streams and lakes improve our quality of life by allowing us to enjoy the outdoors. Fishing, hiking, birdwatching, and simply taking a family walk are important reasons why people enjoy living in the White Mountains.
Greenbelts—Streams with running water provide “riparian” habitat of cottonwoods, willows and other vegetation that keep streambanks from eroding, create shade and cooler water temperatures for fish and amphibians, and protect migratory corridors for birds and other wildlife.
The following YouTube videos are related to conservation and were produced by various organizations and artists.
Anchor Ranch: A Land Trust "Case Study"
After several years of soul searching and family discussions, Jim and Clarice Holder, owners of the Anchor Ranch in the Eagle Creek watershed of eastern Arizona, decided to place their property into a conservation easement to ensure that their land and its management would remain in their family and would not be subject to development.
Anchor Ranch is bordered by the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, and some private property with Eagle Creek bisecting the nearly 300 acres of rolling grassland that has been in Clarice’s family for three generations. Her grandparents, parents, and now Clarice and Jim and their children worked the land since 1968.
While they know the land will be passed on to their children and grandchildren for a minimum of five generations, the distant future is uncertain, which is one of the reasons behind placing an easement that permanently restricts subdivision and development of the land.
The Holders had been considering the option of a conservation easement for years. When they got ready to do the easement their daughter-in-law, Jan, was working for Southeastern Arizona Land Trust. She assisted them in understanding the conservation easement concept and then referred them to the Nature Conservancy who referred them to Sue Sitko, board member for the White Mountains Land Trust. Sue began working through the conservation easement process with the Holders. The easement became a reality in 2006 and is held by the White Mountains Land Trust.
The Holders live off the grid and rely on solar energy in their very modern, sunny and attractive adobe-style, straw bale constructed home. The easement allows a permanent residence and outbuildings, but does not allow the property to be further developed or subdivided except for rebuilding the original home on the Anchor Ranch and a residence for another family member.
Cottonwood, willow, alder and sycamore are part of this special riparian community with visits by bear, elk, deer, antelope, bobcats, javelina, fox, coyote, turkey, and quail. The riparian habitat of Eagle Creek is of significance, with common black-hawk and yellow-billed cuckoo present. In addition, over 200 longhorn steers graze the Holder’s nearly 10,000 acres of Forest land along with their neighbors, the Double Circles and their 40,000 acres of Forest land.
The Holders are committed to responsible land management and frequently attend workshops on monitoring, livestock management, and soil conservation to employ the most current techniques for managing the ranch. They apply for grants for projects such as replacing old fences with “wildlife friendly” design, supplying water for livestock and wildlife via solar energy and pipe lines and removal of juniper, which has encroached on open grassland.
Monitoring of various native and non-native grasses, annual precipitation, and the flow of Eagle Creek enable the Holders to better understand and act on the impact of nature’s forces on their land. They are currently exploring opportunities for eco-tourism (specifically bird watching) on their property.
If you or someone you know is considering creating a conservation easement, the Holders share that “this is a very personal decision based on how you value land, its use, and the impacts on the complex eco-community. It is not a quick decision and is best done when you are sure about what you want for the future of your land and when you have discussed these plans with your family.”
A conservation easement may benefit you financially, either through payment by a land trust for the development rights or by reducing your taxable gross income through the donation of those rights. Taxes, such as inheritance taxes, could also be reduced.
If you would like more information on conservation easements, please contact the White Mountains Land Trust.
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