GREEN RIVER, Wyo. — When homesteader Charles Webster arrived in Wyoming around 1900, he purchased 160 acres of property along the lower Greybull River.
He trailed 1,500 head of cattle on horseback from Idaho to Wyoming and worked years to expand the now-historic Hat Two Ranch, located northwest of Meeteetse.
That rich ranching history will carry on under two conservation agreements brokered by the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust and The Conservation Fund.
The conservation groups announced this week that Kasey and Ondi Shepperson recently closed on two purchased conservation easements that cover 13,857 acres of their Hat Two Ranch.
Land Trust spokeswoman Liz LeSatz said the first easement covers the majority of the total acreage. She said the second easement covers a small commercial gravel pit, which will be reclaimed at a later date.
The scenic ranch consists of floodplain and river riparian areas, high plains with rolling hills and sagebrush steppe vegetation.
The ranch provides habitat for a variety of big game animals and other wildlife species, including sage grouse and Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
The Hat Two Ranch still features several log homesteads and various archaeological sites.
LeSatz said the Sheppersons grew up in ranching families and have worked diligently to continue making a living on the land.
The couple purchased the property for the Hat Two Limited Partnership in 2003 and moved from the Beaver Rim area between Shoshoni and Casper.
The ranchers, who have three children, run a cow/calf operation and raise hay on 400 acres.
“Ranching is all we ever wanted to do,” Kasey Shepperson said in a media release.
He said the family is committed to preserving the cattle-ranching business while keeping it a family-run operation.
“Our primary values were to make the ranch more cost-effective and provide something for our kids,” Shepperson said.
“The easement will allow us to pass on the property to our children faster and easier,” he said. “It will also reduce mortgage demands, lessening the need to graze the property at full capacity.”
The easements offer unbroken, open spaces and connects Bureau of Land Management land with state-owned land and ranch land.
The connected lands provide an open view of the Big Horn Basin and the Greybull River floodplain.
The two conservation easements will also protect past work performed by Trout Unlimited to conserve the native cutthroat trout habitat.
Trout Unlimited Western Water Project Director Scott Yates said the organization has been working with the Shepperson family for several years to protect and restore riparian habitat along the Greybull River.
Conservation easements are legal, voluntary agreements between landowners and qualified conservation organizations that permanently restrict the type and amount of development that occurs on private property.
The Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust is Wyoming's first statewide agricultural land trust.
The trust was founded in 2000 by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and has conserved more than 148,000 acres of working ranch lands throughout Wyoming.
LeSatz said the organization is dedicated to conserving Wyoming's working family ranches, farms, wide-open spaces, natural habitats and rural communities.
Financial contributions for the Hat Two Ranch conservation easements were made by the Natural Resources Conservation Service Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, The Conservation Fund and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
LeSatz said as part of the purchased easement agreement, the Sheppersons also contributed a significant portion of the value of the easement.
Contact Jeff Gearino at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-875-5359.