SHERIDAN — There are many ways to preserve nature, but it isn’t always easy.
Arriving on Canada’s Ellesmere Island in 2018, to begin work on a project that would eventually become the Disney+ series “Kingdom of the White Wolf,” filmmaker and photographer Ronan Donovan quickly realized the island’s muskoxen — the chief prey of the wolves he was documenting — were skittish around the documentary crew.
Because of this, Donovan and his team had to find the perfect distance from which to document the wolves and their prey without disturbing their natural patterns and behaviors.
“When you’re trying to film and follow, yes you want to be close, but you don’t want to interfere with any of the action, and you don’t want to interfere with any of the behavior,” Donovan said. “The wolves didn’t care how close we were during a hunt, but we had to be maybe a quarter mile away sometimes to allow the natural dance to unfold. Because that’s something we needed to preserve.”
In many ways, the Sheridan Community Land Trust, which hosted a talk from Donovan as part of their inaugural In Bloom fundraiser Oct. 20, is also dedicated to preserving nature’s dance — albeit on a smaller, more local level.
They don’t use camera equipment or television series, according to SCLT Director of Marketing and Development Chris Vrba.
Rather, they work through conservation easements and cooperating with local landowners to preserve the habitat and open space so many people associate with Sheridan.
“The thing I find most endearing about them (the conservation easements) is I take my weekend drives out in the county, and I can still look at that open space,” SCLT Board President Susan Holmes said. “These agreements allow us to see the views that we’ve cherished for so long and to keep it the way it is.”
The land trust’s mission of conserving Sheridan County land received a major boost on Wednesday during the In Bloom fundraiser. According to Vrba, around 140 people attended the event and donated a total of $50,000 to fund future conservation projects.
“It’s so heartening to see how much support there is in this community for conserving local lands and ranches and the populations of elk, deer and pronghorns that call them home,” Vrba said. “There are so many great organizations around this town, and it’s easy for people to find ways to support the things they care about. I’m glad that, for so many people, that passion is conserving local lands.”
The dollars raised during the event will go into the organization’s conservation program and particularly into the development of conservation easements, Vrba said. Easements are voluntary, perpetual agreements crafted to limit the amount and type of development on all or part of a property. These agreements ensure the land is maintained for ranching and/or open space for future generations, regardless of ownership.
To date, SCLT has protected 3,500 acres through nine conservation easements, according to its website. Three more agreements, including properties in the Clear Creek Watershed and the Parkman and Ranchester areas, are in the works right now.
Vrba said the influx of cash comes at a perfect time for the organization as it prepares to welcome its first conservation program manager later this year. This new staff position, along with the funds raised earlier this week, will help conservation projects become a key focus of the organization, Vrba said.
The natural dance will continue and be preserved — all thanks to some generous friends and neighbors, Vrba said.
“Organizationally, because of the support we got from the community, we can really spread our wings and soar in a way we couldn’t before,” Vrba said. “We are doing conservation work the community is driving forward, and we’re really thankful and appreciative of their support.”