Today’s ranch buyer has many options for increasing value and improving stewardship of this unique class of investment asset. Some of these options do not require extensive time, investment, or expertise, but there are consultants available to assist.
Here is a summary of one Landowner’s activities in past two years with an Idaho ranch:
The Landowner bought 705 acres of pastureland and wildlife habitat that encompassed a river and several smaller springs. As an avid hunter, she originally was looking for a weekend retreat with private access to pheasant, quail, ducks and geese—all species found on her property. Working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the local district office of the USDA’s National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), she identified opportunities to improve the quality of the wetland / riparian and upland areas.
In addition, the NRCS was instrumental in assisting her with weed management, pasture, and irrigation system development. With the assistance of Ducks Unlimited and the NRCS Wetland Reserve Program, she was able to earn back part of the original purchase price of the ranch by granting a conservation easement. The easement provides that the specified area will be dedicated for wildlife in perpetuity.
Ranch owners who want to explore how public and private programs can help them improve the quality of their land will need to understand their eligibility as specified by the various agencies. For example, this Idaho Landowner qualified under the NRCS’ EQIP program (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) for cost-sharing payments over a period of several years for land improvements including soil conservation and improvement, livestock management, and improving water quality. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, through the Partners for Wildlife Program, assisted the landowner in excavating a duck pond and in fencing a riparian area reserved for wildlife.
Specifically, in exchange for installing and maintaining a new irrigation system over a period of 20 years, the Landowner was reimbursed by EQIP for 75% of the initial cost over a period of 4 years. NRCS provided the engineering design and construction specifications as well as the irrigation water management analysis. The Landowner was responsible for obtaining permits, ensuring water rights and installing, inspecting, maintaining, and operating the system in accordance with the plan.
The Landowner is successfully developing a set of mixed uses that enhance her property’s long-term value and maintain/increase current income. Improved wildlife habitat leaves a positive legacy and increases the ranch’s recreational value. The property generates income from ranching activities such as harvesting of pasture crops, raising livestock, leasing pastureland, and boarding horses for the US Forest Service and private parties.
· NRCS www.nrcs.usda.gov/
· US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners Program www.fws.gov/partners/
· Check state fish and game department programs Private:
· Ducks Unlimited www.ducks.org/
· Pheasants Forever www.pheasantsforever.org