Last Wednesday, a group of Carey landowners met for discussion and lamb stew with Tom McFarland and Merrill Beyler, two ranchers from the Salmon-Lemhi region. Tom, a third generation cattle rancher from Salmon, was the first to speak. Tom and his brothers were looking to expand their ranch property and knew that they wanted to leave the land in better shape than they had found it. Tom attended early meetings of Salmon Valley Stewardship, which focused on the joint goals of staying sustainable, promoting conservation and helping family ranchers. Tom eventually decided to form the Lemhi Regional Land Trust, a local land trust that ranchers could identify with. In 2009, Tom did an easement on his property, through the Lemhi Regional Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy, and said that the process has had a huge positive effect on his ranch.
Merrill next spoke about his land in Leadore. He spoke proudly of his cattle ranch, which runs along the Lemhi River, where salmon spawn. Merrill was really a pioneer in putting together conservation projects on his property. In 1991, he set up a fencing project to improve salmon habitat and for the past 15 years, has avoided grazing riparian pasture during the spawning season. Merrill talked about his love of small communities and desire to sustain this disappearing part of the American landscape. As he said, “agriculture is what sustains these small communities.” To protect his working ranch, he decided to place an easement on his property, and said that “it’s been good for us, our land, and our community.”
Both ranchers answered questions about the specific programs they went through, the challenges of setting up an easement and the long term benefits. Tom and Merrill emphasized that the easement process can be challenging, but in the end both parties need to focus on their shared goals of ensuring that working farms remain working farms now and into the future. Tom summed it up well in saying, “I can have a significant positive influence for a very long time.”