Conservation Easement

Lori shares my love of the land and we recently partnered with the Nebraska Land Trust (NLT) to protect it through a conservation easement.  In a world where short-term profits guide practically all farming decisions (please click here for exceptions to this approach), this easement will legally protect the agricultural, environmental, and archaeological values of the land in perpetuity, whether our family owns it or not.

Dave Sands, the executive director of the Nebraska Land Trust, told the story of our easement in a recent NLT newsletter.  Since he told it so well, with his permission I’m using his newsletter article to tell the story here:


Cultural sites, prairie, woods, and creeks are preserved for learning on the Hosford Farm

Laredo Ridge Wind Project helps to make preservation possible

It was a quintessential spring day in Boone County, when the Albion-Petersburg second grade were welcomed by Paul and Lori Hosford, who host an annual field trip to their farm near Albion. These visits have become an Albion tradition for the past eight years, appreciated by kids, teachers, and parents alike. With its woodlands, pasture and a meandering stretch of Beaver Creek, one might naturally assume that students had come to learn about nature. While they no doubt appreciated the outdoor classroom, this visit would focus on the Native Americans who once lived there and left pieces of their culture behind.

For more than 125 years, the Hosford’s ancestors have carefully preserved cultural sites that are scattered across the 546-acre farm. In places, visitors can still see where an earth lodge once stood. Over many years, artifacts have been found which Paul uses to teach about the people who hunted and farmed along the Beaver Creek, before his family did the same. The kids listen intently as he tells family stories about the Omaha Indians who continued to visit the farm, even after his ancestors had settled there.

Mindful of the legacy that had been passed down to them, Paul, his wife Lori, and his brother Gregg had been considering permanent preservation to many years. However, there are costs to putting a easement in place, including a donation to the permanent Stewardship Fund which endows a land trust’s ability to sustain preservation.

This financial barrier began to fall in 2010, when the Laredo Ridge Wind Project offered the Nebraska Land Trust (NLT) funding to help pay for a conservation easement to offset habitat loss from their wind farm near Petersburg. The funds would cover the  endowment, transaction costs, and a portion of the easement’s value, so in the spring of 2011, the NLT ran a request for proposals in the Albion News and convened a small group of local people to help choose.

The choice was easy once the Hosford family showed interest. The farm, its resources, and its educational value were known by all and the family offered to donate most of the easement’s value. to preserve resources, the agreement prevents the conversion of woodlands to cropland, which has a significant impact on the easement’s appraised value, as does preservation of cultural sites that could easily be farmed over, along with 10 acres of prairie.

Allowances in the agreement are as notable as the restrictions, as they allow for future possibilities like aquaculture, a winery, bed and breakfast, and interpretive signs or trails for education. In addition, funds from the Laredo Ridge Wind Project have been set aside for restoration of a brome pasture to tallgrass prairie, to further enhance the educational experience.

Paul simply points out that “It is… our place now, claimed with our forbearer’s sweat and grief, sacrifice and determination. But do we understand that by settling this land it is now our ‘place’ — our responsibility — to protect it, to hold it as dear as every people before us has? Do we understand that the color of one’s skin doesn’t matter. In displacing the Native Americans we have taken on an ancient obligation to forever care for this land.”