The region also is home to the Jonah Natural Gas Field, one of the richest concentrations of natural gas in the U.S. Booming gas exploration in the area has led to increased residential and industrial development, posing a threat to the historic way of life of the Boturs and other ranching families. Offers from developers, combined with the challenges of running a huge ranch, led Freddie Botur’s father to consider selling. If he had, this iconic Western landscape might have been lost forever. Instead, through a first-of-its kind public-private partnership, the Cottonwood Ranches have been conserved, along with the wildlife and ranching values they support.

Our Role

The Conservation Fund, along with the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust (WSGALT), worked with the Botur family for three years to place conservation easements on more than 4,600 acres of their property. Funding for the easements came from the Jonah Interagency Office (JIO), which manages a $24.5 million fund established to mitigate land and wildlife impacts of Jonah Field drilling. The easement on the Cottonwood Ranches was the first to draw on JIO mitigation funds to protect wildlife habitat. Additional funding came from the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, The Nature Conservancy (through a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation), and the Wyoming Governor’s Big Game Licenses Coalition. The WSGALT monitors and enforces the easements.

Why This Project Matters

The three easements ensure permanent protection from non-ranching development for prime sage grouse habitat along rivers, lakes and streams, and also improve habitat conditions for a wide variety of wildlife on more than 25,000 acres of adjacent land owned by the Bureau of Land Management.

Thanks to this partnership, Freddie Botur can continue to manage his historic cattle ranch, and has been able to make improvements that include installing pipelines, replacing antiquated headgates, building wildlife-friendly fence, and instituting progressive grazing management techniques that have benefited all species, including his herd. In exchange, the public is now assured that the ranch will stay intact and be available for wildlife and agriculture forever.

“Cottonwood Ranches has been proud to work with the Stock Growers Ag Land Trust and The Conservation Fund to aid in the mitigation of oil and gas impacts in Wyoming for the good of the land, the wildlife and the ranch. As a rancher I am grateful for these efforts to balance the development of our resources with the preservation of the agricultural stewardship that is so important to our communities all across Wyoming.”
—Freddie Botur, owner, Cottonwood Ranches

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