Working ranches comprise the vast majority of Yampa Valley Land Trust’s conservation easements. We value our conservation partnership with agricultural operators and felt it was time for YVLT to give back.
To show our appreciation and support for the ag community in Northwest Colorado – and to enjoy some delicious high country beef – we participated in the Junior Livestock Sale at the Routt County Fair in August.
YVLT placed the winning bid on Smokey, a 1,430-pound steer raised in Routt County by nine-year-old Lloyd Warren. Proceeds from the auction will go into a savings account for Lloyd and put towards his college education (although a few of these hard-earned dollars will help this young man buy an iPad!).
This venture was made possible by the Allbright family, who generously purchased Smokey on the organization’s behalf. Thank you, Bruce and Leslie, for allowing YVLT to show our support for agriculture in Northwest Colorado!
This Labor Day weekend, the Yampa Valley Crane Festival returns to Steamboat Springs for the sixth time to celebrate Greater Sandhill Cranes, a captivating and iconic sight in the Yampa River Valley.
The annual event draws birdwatchers from around the country who flock to Northwest Colorado every September, when the cranes begin to gather in “staging areas” before heading south for their winter migration.
Greater Sandhill Cranes, standing four feet tall with wingspans exceeding six feet, are the only crane species found in Colorado. Their habitat consists largely of agricultural fields, riparian corridors, and wetlands, all of which YVLT works to conserve.
According to the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition (presenters of the YVCF), “the primary nesting areas for the Rocky Mountain Population of Greater Sandhill Cranes include Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Routt, and Rio Blanco Counties”. YVLT has conservation projects in four of those five counties; preserving valuable crane habitat, including critical nesting areas along the Yampa, Elk, and White Rivers that the birds depend on to raise their young. The YVLT-conserved Carpenter Ranch in Hayden, owned by the Nature Conservancy, is one of the venues where guided crane tours are being offered in conjunction with the Yampa Valley Crane Festival.
Although crane populations have remained relatively stable in recent years, cranes – like many species – are losing large blocks of their traditional grounds to ecosystem fragmentation and conversion. Willow-lined creeks, riparian areas, wetlands, irrigated hay meadows, and other water-based environments are critical for the cranes’ long-term survival, but these resources are limited in supply and quality crane habitat in Northwest Colorado is declining every year.
Support the organization dedicated to protecting these captivating creatures and their habitats across Northwest Colorado, and help us make sure Greater Sandhill Cranes will always have a home here in the Yampa Valley.
YVLT is thrilled to announce that its latest conservation project has been finalized: 840 acres of open rangeland along the picturesque Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway.
“Rossi Ranch: Devil’s Grave“ is a working ranch parcel owned by brothers Dean Rossi and Jim Rossi that sits in an agricultural corridor of South Routt County. Its ominous name is derived from a tombstone-like monolith at the tip of “Devil’s Grave Mesa,” a sandstone tabletop overlooking the property.
The 840-acre “Devil’s Grave” is distinguished by its stunning views of the Flat Top Mountains and sagebrush steppe expanses. Sagebrush is a critical ecosystem for many of Northwest Colorado’s resident wildlife. These environments are particularly important for Greater Sage-grouse and Columbian sharp-tailed grouse (both state-designated “Species of Special Concern”), which rely on them for food, shelter, and breeding grounds. The property’s mountain-shrub ecosystems also harbor key habitat for elk, moose, mountain lions, bald eagles, hawks, and other wildlife, including “Critical Winter Range” for mule deer when the Yampa Valley is blanketed in deep snow.
The owners primarily use this parcel for livestock grazing. With a limited human footprint on the property, wildlife enjoy an 840-acre sanctuary where they remain undisturbed for much of the year – just the way they like it! The conservation easement removed this parcel’s subdivision and development potential, allowing these lands to remain open and available for ranching and wildlife for many years to come.
The parcel contributes to the open landscape along Colorado Highway 131 and the Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway, which feature striking vistas with unobstructed views leading into the Flat Tops Wilderness (third largest Wilderness Area in the state) and its prominent 11,000-foot peaks. For those who are unfamiliar with this Scenic Byway, it’s a secluded 82-mile scenic route connecting the towns of Yampa and Meeker providing access points to remote pockets of the Flat Tops.
In addition to its rugged open scenery, the Devil’s Grave conservation project also preserves Northwest Colorado’s rich agricultural heritage dating back to late 1800s, when settlers first arrived in the Yampa Valley.
Dean and Jim have deep roots in the Yampa Valley: four generations of the Rossi family have owned and operated a Routt County ranch for nearly a century. This historic ranching family has also been instrumental in pioneering and championing the use of conservation easements in Northwest Colorado. In fact, the Devil’s Grave parcel shares a border with and is in close proximity to the 600-acre “Rossi Ranch on the Yampa River” – the first conservation easement funded by GOCO in the State of Colorado (finalized with YVLT in 1996). Together, these easements along with a neighboring 333-acre conserved parcel form a 1,773 acre block of conserved land in this area.
Rossi Ranch on the Yampa River is among YVLT’s most recognizable projects, preserving the iconic Laughlin Buttes – unique volcanic spires that loom above Colorado Highway 131 between the towns of Yampa and Phippsburg. Famed Colorado landscape photographer John Fielder captured the Laughlin Buttes for his 2009 book, “Ranches of Colorado” (click here to read about Fielder’s visit to Northwest Colorado and see his photograph of the Buttes, courtesy of the Steamboat Pilot & Today).
With this 840-acre property conserved, YVLT has permanently protected over 56,130 acres across four counties in Northwest Colorado.
YVLT would like to thank Great Outdoors Colorado, Routt County (through its Purchase of Development Rights program), the Rossi family, and of course YVLT supporters, all of which provided the funding that allowed this important ranchland preservation project to move forward.
Routt County’s ranch preservation program closes in on 50,000 acres conserved
By Tom Ross, Steamboat Pilot & Today (February 7, 2017)
Steamboat Springs — Routt County’s tradition of leveraging dedicated tax dollars to conserve working agricultural landscapes was nearing a landmark as 2017 began, and with the closing of another five pending conservation easements this year, the county’s Purchase of Development Rights program will have surpassed 50,000 acres conserved.
Beginning in 1997, when voters in Routt County approved a 1.5-mill increase in their property taxes with the funds dedicated to protecting rural landscapes, the PDR program has provided money to help leverage conservation easements that remove development rights from the conserved acres in perpetuity. Voters reaffirmed their support for the tax in November 2005, extending its term through 2025.
When the next five easements close, the PDR tax will have contributed about $24.7 million to the conservation of more than 50,000 acres.
PDR easements are evaluated by a board of citizens including Chairwoman Claire Sollars, Vice Chairman Tarn Dickerson, Treasurer Carl Vail, Mary Alice Page-Allen, Mary Kay Monger, John Ayer and Dean Rossi. Helena Taylor serves as the board’s executive secretary.
The other essential partners in the conservation easements are the conservation organizations like the Yampa Valley Land Trust and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, which hold and oversee the conservation easements to ensure standards are being met.
“We had a great year last year and closed four more easements (in Routt County),” Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust Director of Stewardship Megan Knott said, bringing her organization’s number of conservation easements here to 22.
Yampa Valley Land Trust Executive Director Susan Dorsey told the Routt County commissioners Tuesday that her organization was especially pleased to have helped, along with Great Outdoors Colorado [and Gates Family Foundation], to conserve Pam and Steve Williams’ Glas Deffryn Ranch. The property is located just upstream on the Yampa River from Stagecoach Reservoir State Park where large numbers of passing cars and cyclists can admire the oxbows of the upper Yampa River.
The Land Trust also helped to conserve Stillwater Ranch south of the town of Yampa. It contains significant sage grouse habitat and was conserved with the help of the Vernon Summer Revolving Loan Fund.
Typically, the landowners involved in a PDR-funded easement forego a little more than 50 percent of the land’s appraised value. PDR provides on average 25.8 percent of the property’s value, and other federal, state and local agencies have contributed just under 23 percent of the value of the conserved lands.
A significant number of the owners of the conserved lands have used the proceeds to acquire additional land to keep their agribusinesses viable for succeeding generations.
The conservation easements do not come with any public access to the land but provide public benefit by assuring the wide open Yampa Valley will remain that way in perpetuity, preserving views and character.
Most of the conservation partners working here, including representatives of The Nature Conservancy and the city of Steamboat Springs, appeared before the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday to affirm their ongoing stewardship of the land.
Commissioner Tim Corrigan said it was important to him to receive assurances from each easement holder that their reserve funds were sufficient to support their annual site inspections of the conserved lands.