Sheridan County residents Mike and Vicky McMeans have cleared the way for the county's first conservation subdivision in a move that also protects more than half a mile of the Tongue River.
The family has placed 80 acres of land west of Dayton under conservation easement through the Sheridan Community Land Trust.
The land was part of 160 acres the family purchased in 2012 from Dan Scott of the Padlock Ranch. The ranch had already placed half of the property under conservation easement. The family's donation put the remaining acreage under the same protection.
According to the land trust, the family is the first landowner in Sheridan County to donate an easement under regulations adopted by the county in 2012.
The new regulations allow property owners to design subdivisions that can continue use of lands for agricultural and ranching activities, conserve riparian areas and other natural resources, and keep residential buildings away from steep slopes and floodplains.
The family set aside more than 80 percent of the property for agriculture, open space and habitat protection. They retain three residential development envelopes within the conservation easement, but hay meadows and the Tongue River corridor are protected.
Land Trust board chairwoman Margie Taylor said the board is thrilled that the family decided to preserve the land's agricultural values in perpetuity. The McMeans' property is the initial gateway into the Tongue River Canyon and a boundary between the town of Dayton and rural acreages upstream.