Group gets conservation easement despite political opposition

Attacks on voluntary private land conservation are nothing new, most recently manifesting around the Biden administration’s commitment to 30x30, falsely portraying its conservation incentives — things like increased funding to help accelerate private land conservation — as a federal land grab that tramples the rights of landowners.

By Corey Himrod August 30

The anti-voluntary private land conservation movement has been visible recently in Nebraska, however, there is some good news to share out of the Cornhusker State, as Audubon of Kansas recently finalized a permanent easement on approximately 290 acres of land it owns along the Niobrara River in north-central Nebraska, just a few miles from the South Dakota border. Paul Hammel reported on the easement for the Nebraska Examiner:

Despite Gov. Pete Ricketts’ opposition to conservation easements, and “no” votes from two local boards, a wildlife group recently was able to establish a permanent conservation easement along a pristine stretch of the Niobrara River in north-central Nebraska…

…Audubon of Kansas recently filed its permanent easement on about 290 acres of land it owns along the Niobrara River, north of Bassett, just a few miles from the South Dakota border…

[T]he step will allow the Audubon group to expand wetland areas along the river to benefit two elusive marsh birds, the Virginia rail and the sora.

Voluntary private land conservation is an important tool for slowing the impacts of climate change, increasing biodiversity and making landscapes more climate-resilient, and land trusts across the country are utilizing conservation easements to empower landowners to determine the future of their land. To that end, preservation successes like the Niobrara River conservation easement are absolutely victories to be celebrated. But it’s also critical that anyone that loves the outdoors and cares about the future of our planet speaks out where they can to combat the misinformation being spread about 30x30 and private land conservation.

Sandhill crane on wetlands at the Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary. (Courtesy of Jackie Augustine, Audubon of Kansas)

Coyotes bark in the misty morning at the Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary. (Courtesy of Jackie Augustine, Audubon of Kansas)