Conservation on the Cloudt Ranch
The Malpai Borderlands Group has worked with the Cloudt family to complete two important conservation projects on their ranch: 1) permanently protecting the ranch from subdivision with a conservation easement and 2) replacing over 8 miles of old hazardous livestock boundary fence with new all-steel "wildlife-friendly" fence.
The Cloudt Ranch lies south of Rodeo, New Mexico in the San Simon Valley and straddles the New Mexico/Arizona line. Part of the ranch runs up into the Peloncillo Mountains. Over the years, the family has worked very hard to return the ranch to a healthy grassland state. At the same time, they have watched in dismay as acreage around them was sold into subdivision. The ranch owns frontage property along Highway 80 and contains an irrigation well. It would have made an ideal target for subdivision, but the Cloudts had other ideas. The family first approached the Malpai Borderlands Group about protecting the ranch in 2002. The Malpai Group and the Cloudts began the process by getting an appraisal of the property's development value and negotiating the terms of the conservation easement. Just prior to closing, however, the Cloudts were informed by their accountant that accepting payment for the easement would violate terms of an estate agreement made with the Internal Revenue Service four years previous which prohibited them from accepting non-agricultural income from the ranch for another six years. The purpose of the agreement was to keep the ranch in agriculture, which, ironically, is what the easement would have done (only permanently). The Cloudts than retained the services of a tax attorney who drew up an agreement that allowed the Malpai Borderlands Group to purchase an option to buy the easement in December, 2008 when the IRS agreement expired. After six long years, the deal was consummated in December of last year as planned.
We all owe gratitude to the Cloudt family for working so hard with the Malpai Borderlands Group to permanently protect this important ranch from development. But the Cloudts weren't done yet. With help from the Malpai Group (thanks to generous grants from a couple of foundations), the family replaced over 8 miles of deteriorated, hazardous five-strand barbed wire fence with four-strand "wildlife friendly" fence. The sagging wires on the old fence made it difficult for pronghorn to traverse the fence by going under the bottom wire. The new fence has a smooth, elevated bottom wire for easy passage by pronghorn. The top two wires on the new fence are spaced so that deer cannot get their hind feet tangled in it when they jump. This project was completed in May. The total cost was over $45,000, with the Malpai Group able to pick up around half of that cost. These projects are another example of how collaborative conservation benefits the land and its inhabitants.