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"Saving the Ranch" by Donna Wells

Saving the Ranch

By Donna Wells - Development Director, New Mexico Land Conservancy

"New Mexico Department of Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte speaks with forum attendees after the morning session."

New Mexico farmers and ranchers who attended the day-long Agricultural Lands Conservation Forum in Las Cruces in early October left with a new appreciation for the role of conservation easements in helping landowners continue to farm and ranch.

The forum, sponsored by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA Rural Development Office and the New Mexico Land Conservancy, provided the participants with an overview of tools that can help landowners reduce their income and estate tax burdens, making it easier to stay on the land.

Dale Armstrong, who ranches in Socorro County with his wife Gale, summed up his thoughts about conservation easements: "If you are a landowner who wants to keep ranching, then an easement can help you do that while having no impact whatsoever on your ranching operations." Armstrong was joined by three other New Mexico ranchers on a panel discussion of the role of conservation easements in protecting traditional farm and ranch land.

"The purpose of our conservation easement is to protect family ranching," remarked rancher Sid Goodloe during the panel discussion. 

Between 1985 and 2010, over one million acres of prime agricultural and other rural land were converted to development around the state, making land conversion one of the greatest threats to New Mexico's farm and ranch heritage.

A conservation easement is a voluntary, legal agreement between a private landowner and a land trust to limit subdivision, development and specific uses on the property for the purpose of conserving certain conservation values, such as productive agricultural land, wildlife habitat or scenic open space.  Each conservation easement is tailored to the subject property and the conservation goals of the landowner.

In New Mexico, landowners who donate conservation easements can be eligible for federal income tax deductions as well as a transferable state tax credit.  New Mexico is one of only a handful of states across the nation that has such a transferable state tax credit.  Landowners can receive a tax credit for 50% of the value of a conservation easement donation up to $250,000.  Landowners can then use the tax credit to offset their state tax credit liability for up to 20 years or to sell them at a discounted rate on the open market and convert them to cash. This incentive, combined with the federal tax deduction, can make all the difference for a landowner considering a conservation easement.

Learn more about conservation easements at or at




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