Across the West, a growing number of ranchers and farmers are seeking such “conservation easements” to stave off the big-box stores, self-storage complexes and residential construction consuming millions of acres of fertile open space. From Montana’s sagebrush steppe to New Mexico’s Central Flyway, the interest is so strong that state agencies and nonprofits are juggling lengthy waiting lists of applications. A Wyoming land trust funded in part by state appropriations typically has as many as 24 projects vying for review.

“There is huge demand,” said Jordan Vana, managing director of Montana Land Reliance. The organization, working with land trusts and government agencies in the state, closed deals in fiscal 2019 that preserved 71,000 acres — more than the other 49 states combined.

Read more from Jennifer Oldham with The Washington Post here.