To compensate for habitat loss at the Jonah Field, the companies agreed to finance a $24.5 million mitigation fund, to be managed by a new governmental entity called the Jonah Interagency Mitigation & Reclamation Office.

BLM turned to The Conservation Fund to lead the first conservation real estate deal using Jonah Interagency Office funds. Acting on the results of a conservation model, BLM sought to protect nearby land that’s rich in critical wildlife habitat yet unsuitable for drilling.


The Conservation Fund has conserved more than 9,000 acres of habitat along rivers, lakes and streams for a wide variety of wildlife using the Jonah mitigation funds including the Cottonwood Ranches, Carney Ranch and MJ Ranch.

Cottonwood Ranches

In west central Wyoming, the 75,000-acre Cottonwood Ranches owned by cattle rancher Freddie Botur sustained his family’s way of life for years. The same land is home to a rich variety of wildlife, from the native trout that thrive in Cottonwood Creek to the mule deer, moose, elk and pronghorn antelope that use the land as a migration corridor, to the healthy populations of sage grouse, burrowing owls and other raptors. Gas exploration in the area led to increased residential and industrial development, posing a threat to the historic way of life of the Boturs and other ranching families.

Cottonwood Ranches. Credit: Lily Engle

he Conservation Fund, along with the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust, worked with the Botur family to place conservation easements on more than 4,600 acres of their property. Funding for the easements came from the Jonah Interagency Office, 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 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 BLM.

“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

Greater Sage-Grouse Strut Male greater sage-grouse strut displays on a lek near Hudson, Wyoming USA. During the spring, males gather on breeding grounds, called leks. Males perform strut displays to court females and define their display territories on the lek.

Thanks to this partnership, Freddie Botur could 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.

Carney Ranch

Carney Ranch forms the most important piece of the Path of the Pronghorn’s “Funnel Bottleneck” for pronghorn antelope migrating from as far north as Grand Teton National Park. The property features the only bottleneck occurring on private lands—and the most vulnerable.

Carney Ranch. Credit: Luke Lynch

The Conservation Fund completed a conservation easement with the Carney family that protects the northernmost 2,400 acres of Carney Ranch, located at the head of the Upper Green River Valley in Sublette County, by preventing future development of the land and ensuring its sound management.

This project protects the pronghorn and a working cattle ranch — two icons of the American West. The ranch property and the entire Upper Green River Valley boast some of the highest quality habitat and open space in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and we thank the numerous partners for continuing to support the conservation of this important landscape for future generations.

We purchased the easement using funding from the Jonah Interagency Office, Acres for America program, a partnership established between Walmart Stores, Inc. and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative, the Wyoming Wildlife & Natural Resources Trust and The Nature Conservancy (through a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation) provided additional funding for the easement.

Pronghorn Antelope — the Speed Demon of North America

Watch the pronghorn antelope, the fastest land animal in North America, in action.

MJ Ranch

Building on the Cottonwood Ranches success, The Conservation Fund helped complete a conservation easement protecting more than 2,000 acres of MJ Ranch, a family-owned working ranch southeast of Boulder.

The Jonah Interagency Mitigation and Reclamation Office and the Wyoming Game & Fish Department identified the MJ Ranch as a top conservation priority. The Fund worked with owners of the ranch to place the property under a conservation easement, while the Wyoming Game & Fish Department developed habitat enhancement plans for the land.

Our mitigation work in the region continues. With our partners, we work to balance the protection of nature with the development of new energy resources for the nation’s businesses and homes.