The South Dakota Agricultural Land Trust (SDALT) has partnered with a Lawrence County landowner on its first conservation easement. “The Oak Hills Ranch will remain a working ranch under the easement,” said Lyle Perman, SDALT President, Lowry, SD. “In addition, the easement will preserve native habitat for wildlife and help protect the natural integrity of the Spearfish Creek watershed.”

Johanna Meier Della Vecchia and her late husband, Guido purchased the Oak Hills Ranch in 1996. The conservation easement culminates the pursuit of the famed couple to ensure that the property will always remain as an undeveloped place for ranching and wildlife. While the public will always benefit from the open space views of the ranch on the outskirts of Spearfish, access to the property for recreation will continue to be by permission only, the same as any other private property in South Dakota.

“After considerable study and exploration of possibilities, I have decided to create a conservation agreement with the South Dakota Agricultural Land Trust, an organization which I feel will enhance and solidify my wishes for the future of the Oak Hills Ranch,” Johanna Meier Della Vecchia said. “I think it is vitally important that Spearfish retain the value of undeveloped land close to town, which will allow for undisturbed wildlife habitat and maintenance of historical agricultural property.”

“Having lived and worked in many parts of the world, I still find the Black Hills and my community among the most beautiful and significant areas, and I am grateful that the Oak Hills Ranch has been given into my stewardship,” she went on to say. “I hope the community in which I grew up will value this decision and will join me in maintaining the sanctity of this property in perpetuity for the coming generations.”

“We are honored to have been entrusted to hold and steward this conservation easement,” said Perman. “Protection of this working ranch is an excellent example of the important role SDALT can play in preserving the future of agriculture, open spaces and conservation in our state.”

South Dakota Agricultural Land Trust is a non-profit corporation formed in 2019 to assist South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers in achieving their conservation and operational goals.

You can learn more about the Trust at