Conservation Easement to Protect 2,440 Acres Near Prescott, Ariz.
Missoula, Montana – The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has announced a landmark conservation easement on 2,440 acres approximately 15 miles north of Prescott, Ariz.
The easement protects the William and Betty Lo Wells property surrounding Little Thumb Butte, tucked between state lands and the Prescott National Forest. The land provides year-round range for resident elk and winter range for migrating elk. By preventing development, the easement permanently secures habitat important to the region’s elk herd and other wildlife.
“With subdivisions encroaching on wild and open land, prime habitat is scarce around Prescott. This new 2,440-acre conservation easement couldn’t have come at a more opportune time,” said Elk Foundation Regional Director Ron Pittman. “It’s also a milestone for the Elk Foundation as this easement is the first donated to our organization in Arizona.”
Lying in a scenic landscape of sloping grasslands, narrow valleys and areas of mixed brush and juniper rising toward craggy ridges, this working ranch is crucial for wildlife. Besides elk, it is also home to mule deer and antelope. The new easement assures that such use of this land will never change, even if it changes hands in the future.
“Beyond the occasional windmill, fence or pond, this easement prevents any development of the land,” said Bob Hammond, southwest region lands program manager for the Elk Foundation. “This is not only good for the wildlife on the land itself, but the protected habitat will act as a buffer for surrounding public lands. Even if the neighboring public lands contain prime habitat, development next door would have negatively impacted the integrity of the area as a whole. This easement will make sure that’s never an issue.”
Jeff Pebworth, wildlife program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department said he was pleased to hear about the easement.
“This is one of the fastest growing areas in the state and it’s great to see this high-priority habitat area protected by an easement,” he said.
Little Thumb Butte is a compilation of old homesteads traditionally used for livestock grazing, however, “The William and Betty Lo Wells family is very supportive of having elk and other wildlife on their property,” said Hammond.
Christopher Kottke of Prescott is the family attorney, and he played a key role in closing the deal.
“Chris created a comprehensive estate and tax plan for the family, and told them about conservation easements to significantly reduce income and estate tax burdens. Chris thought the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was a perfect fit for the family and their ranch,” said Hammond. “Without Chris, the easement may never have happened.”
The Elk Foundation knows the success of this easement will inspire other landowners to similarly protect their land. “If landowners are happy with an easement, they’ll talk to others about it. Meanwhile, we’re appreciative to be part of ensuring the future of this valuable habitat.”
The mission of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is to insure the future of elk, other wildlife, and their habitat. For more information on the Elk Foundation, call 1-800-CALL-ELK or visit the web site at www.elkfoundation.org .