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Private lands are key to the culture, ecology, and economy of the West. They produce food and fiber, provide wildlife habitat, protect watersheds, connect landscapes, sustain livelihoods, and more. But private working lands, and the resources they protect, face increasing pressure. Population growth, volatile agricultural prices, soaring land prices, and difficulty recruiting younger generations to ranch life, all compel landowners to sell private land for development, putting the resources and values private lands protect at risk. Landowners need tools, information, and resources to help keep agricultural operations viable, prepare for the future, and ensure private working lands remain intact for generations to come.
The new Whitney MacMillan Private Lands Stewardship Program in the Ruckelshaus Institute at the University of Wyoming will address the needs of private landowners by drawing on expertise and interdisciplinary collaborations across natural resource management, rangeland ecology, business and finance, law, decision-making, collaborative processes, and other fields. The program will focus on a range of pressing issues affecting private landowners, including intergenerational transfer of land; options for participation in emerging markets such as conservation banks; science-based range management and grazing practices; and effective collaboration with federal, state, and private land managers on issues ranging from grazing leases to carnivores.
View and download a description of the Private Lands Stewardship Program
From watershed protection to wildlife habitat, energy development to hunting opportunities, private lands are key to sustaining the characteristics that define our western landscapes. Click on our interactive map to explore the many benefits private lands provide, and to learn about resources and tools landowners can access to help protect those benefits.
In January 2023, the Ruckleshaus Institute and the Intermountain West Joint Venture hosted a discussion-based workshop focused on actionable items to increase the pace and scale of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Agricultural Land Easements (ACEP-ALE). Learn more about the workshop outcomes.
View or download the 2023 program update to learn more about recently completed research and outreach projects and projects currently underway.
The challenge of maintaining working lands requires conservationists to increase the scale and impact of their efforts. To achieve this goal, a portfolio of tools and approaches is needed that meets diverse landowner objectives and ecological needs.
Resources for Landowners
From wind energy and mineral leasing, to wildlife-friendly stock tanks, to planned grazing and estate planning, you'll find a comprehensive list of resources for landowners.
Meet our Team
Our diverse team helps address the needs of private landowners by drawing on expertise and interdisciplinary collaborations across natural resource management, rangeland ecology, business and finance, law, decision-making, collaborative processes, and other fields.
Motivated by a desire to sustain private working lands and keep agricultural operations viable, Haub School Emeritus Board Member, Whitney MacMillan, founded the Private Lands stewardship Program in 2018. As the retired Chairman and CEO of Cargill, Inc., and the operator of a cow-calf ranch in Montana, Mr. MacMillan has seen the challenges facing private landowners first-hand. Whitney's gift supports a Professor of Practice in Private Lands Stewardship, Dr. Drew Bennett, and establishes the new Whitney MacMillan Private Lands Stewardship Program to advance research and outreach that will create new understanding about the drivers of private-land changes and emerging tools for sustaining private lands.