“There are still many birds in the valley to fill the air with song in the spring. There are frogs croaking in the sloughs and ponds. The hills and mountains are relatively unscathed from the big building boom that has left other mountain areas covered with huge houses and scars from ski runs and over development. There is still the roaring of streams in the springtime as they dash down the mountainside into the rivers below. There remains a quietness and sense of peace at being away from the noise and blare of traffic.”
“How wonderful it would be if we could just keep what we have left, as it is, for all the world and future generations to see.”
Elaine Gay, from “How Pleasant is the Valley” (1995)
Elaine’s love for Pleasant Valley led her to conserve 1,000 acres of her beloved Green Creek Ranch.
Tribute to a Grand Lady
Echoing from ridge to ridge and to the river below, the heartfelt words of Elaine ring throughout this incredible Valley.
Matriarch, Mentor, Conservationist, Friend, Leader and Rancher.
Her home was her hearth and her kitchen her heart. And from her kitchen and from deep within her heart she proved that pies prevail over powder.
Along with stories of watering cabbages before a first date to leading the charge to keep Pleasant Valley pleasant – Elaine also helped to open the eyes of the community to the impacts a new city and resort development of 10,000 would have on the land, its people, Green Creek Ranch and the Valley that she so loved.
Elaine – you will remain an inspiration for land conservation and an inspiration to the people dedicated to protecting the Yampa Valley and Northwest Colorado.
From all of your friends that stood with you in the face of seemingly irreversible changes – Elaine – in your name and with your heart we vow to continue in your footsteps to do our best to protect this incredible Valley.
And more importantly –
we love you Elaine –
and always will –
there’s no doubt about it.
In loving memory to Elaine Gay:
Elaine was my mentor and my inspiration to create Yampa Valley Land Trust for our Valley and Northwest Colorado. We will miss you, Elaine.
The Yampa River Meandering Through Iron Springs Ranch
Yampa Valley Land Trust Conserves Two Miles of the Yampa River on “Iron Springs Ranch”
Yampa Valley Land Trust, Gates Family Foundation and Routt County’s Purchase of Development Rights (“PDR”) Program made a splash this year by conserving over two miles of the Yampa River on Iron Springs Ranch. This property’s unique location and ecological values are distinguishing: the 640-acre working ranch is situated just upstream from Stagecoach Reservoir State Park, safeguarding a wildlife stronghold in an ecologically-significant section of Routt County.
The new project adds to a growing YVLT “conservation corridor” in the Stagecoach vicinity that is aimed at landscape-scale land conservation, leveraging other nearby conservation projects to preserve the area’s scenic vistas, agricultural values, and prime wildlife habitat. The Yampa River is truly the lifeblood of our community and is consistently recognized as one of the most hydrologically and biologically intact watersheds remaining in the West. At only 250 miles long, every mile of preservation along its riparian corridor represents a victory for land conservation in Northwest Colorado.
Routt County’s voter-approved Purchase of Development Rights Program provided the funding that allowed this important conservation project to move forward, in addition to critical financial support the Gates Family Foundation and YVLT’s generous donors. Conservation of Iron Springs Ranch not only preserves the ecological values found on this parcel, but also its rich history: it has been in agricultural production for over 70 years. Four generations of the Stetson clan have worked on the family ranch since Frank Stetson’s father first acquired the land in the 1940s. With a conservation easement on the ranch, the proper framework is now in place to keep the land in agricultural production forever.
Iron Springs Ranch is highly visible along the well-traveled Routt County Road 14 corridor, which serves as the gateway to Stagecoach State Park, Sarvis Creek Wildlife Area, Sarvis Creek Wilderness Trailhead, Routt National Forest and the developing Stagecoach residential community. As it adjoins 736 acres of BLM land, the ranch provides an important wildlife migration corridor and serves as a visual buffer to the wealth of public lands in the vicinity.
Thanks to its location along the Yampa River, Iron Springs Ranch provides habitat for a wide range of river-dwelling mammals and amphibians including otters, great blue herons, sandhill cranes, and a multitude of other species. Brush-covered portions of the ranch and its irrigated meadows provide habitat for bald eagles, mule deer, elk, moose, coyotes, bears, mountain lions, and a variety of raptors and songbirds.
By protecting working farms and ranches from future development, Yampa Valley Land Trust, Routt County PDR and Gates Family Foundation are safeguarding open space values and scenic vistas that are of a high priority to the local community. This important conservation easement project marks an accomplishment for Routt County residents with benefits for its animal inhabitants as well.
With its latest conservation project finalized, YVLT has conserved over 54,300 acres in 73 conservation easements across Northwest Colorado – protecting the best of what this remarkable area has to offer.
Established in 1992, Yampa Valley Land Trust works with willing landowners to conserve the agricultural, natural, scenic and historic landscapes located in Routt, Rio Blanco, Jackson and Moffat Counties. To date, much of YVLT’s work has focused on the Upper Yampa River Basin in Routt County and the Upper White River Basin in Rio Blanco County. Over the past twenty years and prior, Yampa Valley Land Trust has been the leader in land conservation for the area and has protected over 54,300 acres in 73 conservation easements. Additionally, YVLT has worked to conserve an additional 5,000 acres proximate to the City of Steamboat Springs and on Emerald Mountain and Howelsen Hill that now provides public access to open space and trails. All of YVLT’s projects ensure that the beautiful working landscapes and prime ecological features along with outstanding recreational projects will continue to be an inspiring part of our lives and the lives of generations to follow. Through cash donations and contributions, supporters of Yampa Valley Land Trust helped to make these projects and all Yampa Valley Land Trust conservation easement projects possible. For more information please call Susan Dorsey at the Yampa Valley Land Trust, 970-879-7240.
The Routt County Purchase of Development Rights Program has, to date, completed 50 conservation projects totaling 36,734 acres and currently has 5 projects in process totaling an additional 3,880 acres. For more information please call Helena Taylor at Routt County, 970-879-0108.
The Gates Family Foundation makes philanthropic investments statewide that contribute to the quality of life in Colorado, create opportunities for youth, and support stewardship of this extraordinary place, particularly the state’s natural inheritance. At the end of 2014, the Foundation invested more than $241 million across Colorado towards these ends. In carrying out its mission, the Foundation strives to maintain a long‐term perspective and focus on the challenges and opportunities that will have the greatest impact over time on the people, communities and resources of the state.
YVLT’s 250-acre Rehder Ranch Nature Preserve is a wildlife stronghold (*updated with photos from 2015*) – but it’s also filled with cultural and historical significance!
What began as a pioneer homestead for the Rehder family at the beginning of the 20th century transformed over time into a viable working ranch with permanent buildings, thanks to Henry Rehder’s hard-work, resourcefulness and classic Routt County ingenuity.
The 1920s-era Rehder Ranch “Bank Barn” is a rare example of barn architecture in the Yampa River Basin. The Colorado State Historical Fund and National Trust for Historic Preservation agreed, awarding YVLT historic preservation grants to stabilize and rehabilitate this unique structure, as well as prepare a Historic Structure Assessment for all historic structures on the property.
Wondering why it’s called a “bank barn?”
Wikipedia explains: “A bank barn or banked barn is a style of barn noted for its accessibility, at ground level, on two separate levels. Often built into the side of a hill, or bank, both the upper and the lower floors area could be accessed from ground level, one area at the top of the hill and the other at the bottom. The second level of a bank barn also could be accessed from a ramp if a hill was not available.”
The loft – now a caretaker’s unit – was used to store hay, while the lower level housed livestock. This layout allowed easier access to the hay bales.
The Bank Barn also drew the interest of students at the University of Denver, who prepared a Historic American Building Survey for the Rehder Ranch; their work is now archived in the Library of Congress!
Click the HABS drawings to enlarge.
Thank you to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Colorado State Historical Fund for your contributions to this historic preservation project!
Deep Creek Meadows Ranch Conserved, Safeguarding the Natural Character and Scenic Vistas of the South Elk River Valley
Yampa Valley Land Trust recently finalized a new conservation project on a rustic agricultural property nestled in the scenic Elk River Valley, adding to a steadily-growing conservation corridor just north of Steamboat Springs.
The 459-acre conservation easement was made possible by the voter-approved Routt County Purchase of Development Rights program, which provided funding for this important project, as well as a donation by conservation-minded landowners Fred and Flora Wolf. With a conservation easement in place, YVLT has ensured that the pristine ranchland and scenic viewshed will remain shielded from future development – forever.
Deep Creek Meadows Ranch has deep roots in Routt County. Fred and Flora Wolf have owned the working ranch for more than 30 years, which has been in agricultural production since the 1930s.
The property is situated along the meandering banks of Deep Creek, a tributary of the Elk River, in a fertile basin surrounded by meadows and rolling hills. The rugged, rolling terrain found on Deep Creek Meadows Ranch provides important natural habitat for wildlife. The ranch is home to a pair of nesting sandhill cranes, a once-threatened migratory species that is now on the road to recovery. In addition, the ranch is situated near a critical breeding habitat for Greater Sage-grouse, a species that has been in rapid decline across the West in recent years.
Ranchland offers more than just a sanctuary for animals. By protecting working farms and ranches from future development, Yampa Valley Land Trust is safeguarding open space values and scenic vistas that are of a high priority to the local community, in addition to our cultural identity and rural way of life.
Funding for this important project was provided by the Routt County’s Purchase of Development Rights Program, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and of course, YVLT’s generous supporters which enable the organization to protect key landscapes across Northwest Colorado.
With Fred and Flora Wolf as stewards on the land and under YVLT’s oversight, Deep Creek Meadows Ranch will retain its unique character and conservation values for generations to come.
By YVLT Staff
YVLT in the News
“Routt County Approves New Conservation Easement on Deep Creek,” Steamboat Pilot & Today
Steamboat Springs — Routt County commissioners agreed this week to fund the conservation of the 459-acre Deep Creek Meadows Ranch in the South Elk River Valley with the help of $330,000 of voter-approved tax dollars devoted to protecting the landscape of Routt County from future development.
The ranch, which straddles Deep Creek, a major tributary of the Elk River, has been in agricultural production since the 1930s. Fred and Flora Wolf have owned and operated the ranch with productive irrigated hay meadows for 30 years.
The easement is being funded in part by the owners, who have donated 53.6 percent, or $[omitted], of the ranch’s appraised value of $[omitted], along with $[omitted] from the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service and $[omitted] from the county’s Purchase of Development Rights fund.
The Yampa Valley Land Trust, which has conserved 52,000 acres through 72 conservation easements and has been especially effective in conserving large, contiguous parcels in the Elk River Valley, will hold and manage the easement.
Fred Wolf said Wednesday that he underwent a change of careers when he moved to Routt County.
“You don’t go from being a financial person to being a rancher overnight,” Wolf said.
And the ranch has turned out to be a good place to raise children, and now grandchildren, Wolf added.
Two decades ago, Wolf was the co-chair of a citizens panel, Vision 2020, that attempted to anticipate how the Yampa and Elk river valleys would change in the 21st century and what attributes the community most prized.
“I was on Vision 2020 in 1994, and I’ve watched all this over the years and think it’s a good thing,” Wolf said. “PDR has been around for a long time and served the community pretty well.”
PDR has been in place since 1997 after voters here agreed in November 2006 to tax themselves to create a fund to stimulate land conservation. After originally approving a property tax to fund PDR in November 1996, Routt County voters renewed the tax in 2005 for another 20 years.
Deep Creek Meadows Ranch, in addition to productive hay meadows, is home to a nesting pair of sandhill cranes and is in close proximity to both Columbian sharp-tailed and sage grouse breeding leks.
The pockets of mountain shrubs on the low hills of the ranch serve as elk-calving grounds.
“I’m sure the elk can easily walk from our ranch to neighboring conserved ranches,” Wolf said.