On a warm summer day, there is a good chance you’ll find 12 year old Mason Yorek fishing on his family’s land. The idea of finding a young man fishing isn’t exactly noteworthy, but the land he’s fishing on is of interest.
This 206 acres of picturesque landscape, in Coryell County, Texas, was placed into easement in 2016 by Mason’s great grandmother Lynette Pittsford. When asked about the family’s decision to place the land in easement, Mason says, “I think it is good because it will stay just like when my great-great grandparents and later my great grandmother had it many years ago. Now we will be able to enjoy the natural land for a long, long time.” This makes for a lifetime of preserved land and water for Mason to continue his enjoyment of fishing not only for him but future generations to come.
This land is also very important to nearby Fort Hood. The Pittsford property is just across a farm to market road from the installation. In a unique partnership between the U.S. Army and the Compatible Lands Foundation (CLF), a nonprofit land conservation organization, some landowners near Fort Hood can be compensated by establishing easements on their properties, just as the Pittsford family did last year. By establishing easements with nearby landowners, CLF is helping Fort Hood to continue military training activities without having to alter or cease training operations due to noise or dust complaints.
Fort Hood is just one of many military installations participating in this nationwide effort known as the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program. Through REPI, military installations partner with conservation organizations utilizing easements to create open space “buffers” in vital areas along the boundary lines of military installations. These buffers preserve natural resources and help to ensure continued military training and readiness. The program is entirely voluntary, and landowners near Fort Hood, as well as throughout the nation, have been extremely supportive.
What is an easement? CLF Fort Hood Program Manager Anita Harless explains, “An easement such as the Pittsfords’ simply means that the land will be permanently preserved as open space. Some of the benefits of placing land into easement include preserving rural properties for rural use: ranching; farming; and recreation. By prohibiting development that can cause water degradation, having land in easement can contribute an important role in protection of water quality. Control of development will also encourage success of many species of wildlife. Foremost, here at Fort Hood, these easements help to ensure military readiness by prohibiting housing developments, business’, etc. that might cause Fort Hood to alter or cease certain training activities.”
Mason also believes the land is ideal for Fort Hood. He says, “I think it will help because there will be no distractions for Fort Hood like lots of lights and things like that.” While Mason and future generations of family members enjoy fishing on their land, Fort Hood continues to train soldiers and maintain military readiness just across the highway.