A ranch easement in Colusa County will allow a family ranch with more than 100 years of history to remain free of development. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) program provides Jim Keegan of Keegan Ranch piece of mind knowing his family’s land will stay a working ranch.
“We had started to see a lot of ranches being subdivided into smaller ranchettes and Jim and his family really did not want that kind of pressure, so they pursued this easement,” said NRCS Area Resource Conservationist for Red Bluff Andrea Casey. “The easement is written to continue the agriculture operation as-is.”
Before assisting with the ranch easement, NRCS had already developed a relationship with Keegan Ranch years before. “It’s got a long history of cattle ranching and just family-oriented production,” said Casey. “I believe NRCS originally started working with Jim’s father.”
After years of employing conservation techniques on the ranch, Jim worked closely with NRCS through participating in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to further those efforts. “Under EQIP, we primarily help Jim with infrastructure, rangeland improvements, or water development sensing. It allowed him to better manage the land and graze his cattle more sustainable,” Casey said.
Casey previously served as District Conservationist in Colusa where she worked closely with Jim and the family ranch that’s home to 2,500 acres of wildflowers. “Jim’s got a unique situation there in Bear Valley, it’s best known for its wildflower production,” Casey noted, “we’ve had tourists, we’ve had people coming up from the bay area to come look at the wildflowers.”
Keegan Ranch was originally established in 1880 by Jim’s great-grandparents and is now protected for perpetuity because of the ALE program. “He’s allowed to graze, he’s allowed to continue with his wildflower tours, it doesn’t restrict any of those, it just restricts any sort of development, so we’re not going to see a shopping center out there,” said Casey, “it definitely allows him to continue doing what he loves best.”
Listen to Casey’s interview below.