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Easement Education

Posted: 07/22/2021

Author: Julie Anderson

Category: County Board

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Often the best way to learn is to see. Four Douglas County commissioners and County Engineer and Public Works Director Tim Erickson were able to do just that Tuesday, July 20 as part of the regularly scheduled board meeting.

Commissioners are asked to approve U.S. Fish and Wildlife easements on a fairly regular basis. In order for the commissioners to get a better understanding of how these easements improve wildlife and benefit the county, they took advantage of an opportunity to go on a tour. Neil Powers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife project leader, and Shawn Papon, a wildlife biologist, showed them four properties whose owners have entered into either a wetland easement or a grassland easement.

The first stop was the Chuck Betterman property in Garfield where, thanks to an easement, wonderful wetlands now provide a stopping point for ducks. That says Papon, is the whole point. “Water plus grass equals ducks,” he explained.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses federal duck stamp money to pay the landowners for the easements which are considered forever. They also provide funding for the improvements. The landowners can continue to hunt and hike the land; however they agree to never drain or fill the wetlands. Betterman says he and his son entered into the agreement because hunting is permitted.

Commissioners also saw several grassland easements. These easements allow landowners to grow hay and allow livestock to graze but they agree to never plow up the land in the easement or build on it.

Landowners continue to pay property taxes which commissioners agreed is a win-win.

County Engineer Tim Erickson says he has formed a great working relationship with Powers and Papon. He and the county want to ensure if there’s a need to build or improve a road or other county infrastructure near an easement the two parties can work together on the logistics.

County Board Chairman Jerry Rapp says the tour showed the commissioners the value of the easements as well as the value of the Lake Christina area where hunters not only enjoy the opportunity to shoot ducks, but they also contribute to the local economy by purchasing gas, food, and other items before and after they head to the great outdoors.

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