The New Mexico Land Conservancy is a statewide land trust founded in 2002 to preserve the state’s land heritage by helping people conserve the beauty, character and biodiversity of places they love. NMLC does this by partnering with private landowners, communities, conservation organizations and public agencies to protect significant wildlife habitat, productive agricultural lands, scenic open space, cultural and historic resources and recreational lands. NMLC works collaboratively at community, watershed and landscape scales.

To date, NMLC has conserved just under 150,000 acres with a long-term goal of conserving one million acres statewide. The primary tool that NMLC uses is a conservation easement, which is a perpetual voluntary agreement between the landowner and a land trust to restrict subdivision and development of the property in order to protect its natural, cultural and/or agricultural values. In exchange for relinquishing these development rights, the landowner can receive substantial tax and financial benefits. About 80 percent of the easements that the organization has done have been on working ranches and farms. “The beauty of conservation easements is that the landowner still owns the land and can continue to use it for farming, ranching, managed timber harvesting and other uses compatible with the conservation purposes of the easements,” said Scott Wilber, NMLC’s executive director. “We know that by keeping these lands open and undeveloped, we are also protecting valuable habitat and wildlife corridors, natural and cultural resources and environmental services,” Wilber added. “The easements remove the development pressure from the lands and provide a way for the landowners to pass their family farms and ranches on to the next generation.”

This year, the NMLC was awarded national accreditation through the Land Trust Alliance’s independent Land Trust Accreditation Commission. Voluntary accreditation provides independent verification that land trusts meet high standards for land conservation, stewardship and nonprofit management in the nationally-recognized Land Trust Standards and Practices.

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Corazón de la Tierra Country Fair – Oct. 3

Land conservation will be celebrated and Wagon Mound rancher Greg Moore will receive the Petchesky Conservation Award at NMLC’s 4th Annual Corazón de la Tierra Country Fair on Oct. 3 from 4-8 pm at the Petchesky Conservation Center, 5430 S. Richards Avenue in Santa Fe. The event will feature food, live music for dancing and a variety of presentations. Tickets are $75. More info: 505.986.3801, ext. 102, etemple@nmlandconservancy.org, www.nmlandconservancy.org

Greg Moore—NMLC 2015 Conservation Award Winner

On Oct. 3, the NMLC’s 2015 Jane Wing Petchesky Conservation Award will be given to long-time rancher and innovative land steward, Greg Moore. Moore recognized the threat of subdivision and development facing agricultural communities across the West, and worked with NMLC to place his entire 23,000 acre Wagon Mound Ranch in northeastern New Mexico under conservation easements. Seeking to inspire by example, Moore has become an advocate for private land conservation among the local ranching community. “I like to think of myself as more of a resource manager than just a rancher,” Moore noted. “There is a balance that needs to be maintained—but, basically, if you take care of your land and grass it benefits the wildlife, and what’s good for wildlife is also going to be good for your livestock.”  

The place Moore calls home is a spectacular ranch that boasts shortgrass prairie, piñón-juniper woodland and ponderosa pine at higher elevations. The spread includes Carrizo Creek, a tributary of the Canadian River that runs across its southern landscape. Moore uses sustainable grazing practices, rotating cattle among 20 different pastures. He has designated several areas as protected wildlife sanctuaries and undertaken habitat improvement projects, particularly along the creek. The sanctuaries, in particular, have become critical to restoring the riparian areas—producing wetlands in some areas where there had once been only bare rock. Moore’s work paid off during the summer of 2014, when the long drought ended and the ranch exploded with diverse native grasses and forbs (herbaceous flowering plants).

The grasslands of northeastern New Mexico offer great potential for large-scale conservation of private lands due to ranches like Wagon Mound that practice sustainable grazing operations and act as wildlife migration corridors. The completion of the Wagon Mound Ranch project is a significant step forward for land conservation in Mora County.