Rossi Ranch: “Devil’s Grave” Conserved – 840 Newly Protected Acres Along Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway!

 

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.

Devil’s Grave Mesa overlooks the property’s sagebrush expanses. Photo:  K. McCarty

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.

Glas Deffryn Ranch on the Yampa River: YVLT’s Latest Conservation Project

YVLT is excited to announce the completion of our latest conservation easement: Glas Deffryn Ranch on the Yampa River!

If you have ever traveled along Routt County Road 14 – the “gateway” to Stagecoach Reservoir State Park and the surrounding residential community – then you know firsthand what an idyllic stretch of Routt County it is.  YVLT’s new ranchland preservation project marks a significant step forward in keeping this landscape connected by connecting an unbroken 5-mileconservation corridor” along the Yampa River watercourse (bordering RCR 14) comprised of conserved properties and public lands.

 

Take a look at YVLT’s conservation corridor (click to enlarge):

yampa_river_stagecoach_conservation_area_8x11-page-001

Landowners Steve and Pam Williams have long wished to see their 207-acre ranch permanently preserved, and today their dream has finally become a reality.  Glas Deffryn Ranch consists of two holdings; 86 acres on the Yampa River upstream from and bordering Stagecoach Reservoir State Park, as well as an additional 121 upland acres where the ranch and its agricultural operations are headquartered.  The Williams’ purebred fold of Scottish Highland cattle can often be seen roaming the property’s open pastures.

“We truly appreciate the expertise and tremendous support we have received from Yampa Valley Land Trust, Routt County PDR, GOCO and the Gates Foundation to help us realize the dream of keeping this small ranch we have cobbled together over the last 18 years as one entity into the future for the benefit of agriculture, wildlife and the natural view shed long after we are gone,” Pam says.

Great Outdoors Colorado, Routt County (through its Purchase of Development Rights Program), and the Gates Family Foundation provided funding for the conservation easement on the 86-acre riverfront parcel.  The 121-acre holding received funding from Gates Family Foundation, as well, allowing the Glas Deffryn Ranch conservation easement to move forward.  Both transactions were complemented by a generous donation of value from the landowners, in addition to contributions from YVLT supporters.  Further, the Vernon Summer Revolving Loan Fund assisted with transactional costs.

Approximately .75 channel miles of the Yampa River bisects Glas Deffryn Ranch.  Adding to its conservation significance, the 86-acre riparian parcel borders both Stagecoach Reservoir State Park and Iron Springs Ranch, a 640-acre riverfront property also under conservation easement with YVLT (which is contiguous with the 99-acre, YVLT-conserved C-Cross-C Ranch on the Yampa River).  Collectively, these lands form a conserved river corridor spanning five consecutive channel miles along the Yampa’s watercourse, providing landscape-scale environmental protection and safeguarding the stunning rural vistas that characterize the Stagecoach area (see it on the map, above).

 

The Williams’ fold of purebred Highland cattle can often be seen roaming the property’s open pastures.

 

Glas Deffryn Ranch is notable not only for its scenic qualities, but also for the quality wildlife habitat that exists there.  Nearly 70 percent of all species in Routt County rely on riparian environments at some stage in their life cycles, and over 200 migratory and resident bird species have been documented in the Stagecoach area.  The 207-acre property provides important habitat for grouse, great blue herons, sandhill cranes, bald eagles, mule deer, elk, moose, bears, mountain lions, and more.

The Yampa River is truly the lifeblood of Northwest Colorado.  Its protection is critical not only for today, but for the future of this great region.  YVLT will continue to look for opportunities to safeguard this vitally important resource, along with working ranches, open lands, and critical wildlife habitat throughout Northwest Colorado.  To date, YVLT has conserved over 55,290 acres across 75 conservation easements in Northwest Colorado, with a focus on the Upper Yampa River Valley in Routt County.

YVLT would like to thank the people and organizations that made the Glas Deffryn Ranch conservation easement possible: Great Outdoors Colorado, Routt County, Gates Family Foundation, YVLT supporters, and Steve and Pam Williams.

Join us in protecting the very best of the Yampa Valley and Northwest Colorado!

Donate today.

Critical Grouse Habitat and Scenic Foreground of Flat Top Mountains Conserved at Stillwater Ranch

stillwater
Stillwater Ranch, looking West toward the majestic Flat Top Mountains.

 

Thanks to funding from Great Outdoors Colorado, Routt County’s voter-approved Purchase of Development Rights Program and the Vernon Summer Revolving Loan Fund, and made possible by the landowners and Yampa Valley Land Trust supporters, a 724-acre conservation easement on Stillwater Ranch in South Routt County has been finalized! 

YVLT’s latest conservation project preserves a working ranch and an important fixture of the area’s scenic open space landscape, in addition to safeguarding the property’s rich wildlife habitat; most notably, its irrigated meadows which provide critical Greater Sage-grouse habitat.

Adding to the growing corridor of conserved properties in South Routt County, Stillwater Ranch is situated near the Town of Yampa just east of the Flat Top Mountains within a Colorado Conservation Partnership “Priority Landscape.”  The ranch is visible from Routt County Road 3 and the well-traveled Colorado Highway 131 (looking West: the scenic foreground of the Flat Top Mountains).  YVLT has long focused on preserving this ecologically-important stretch of the Yampa Valley and its irreplaceable scenic qualities.

The rolling hills at Stillwater Ranch are dotted with mountain shrubs and sagebrush, while its upland areas are distinguished by stands of aspen and conifers.  Its irrigated hay meadows and sagebrush stands provide high-quality habitat for Greater Sage-grouse, a species designated as “State Threatened” due to its dwindling supply of natural habitat – much of which is located on private land.  Conservation easement projects such as this are critical in slowing the decline of Greater Sage-grouse populations, along with many other iconic species throughout Northwest Colorado.

 

Greater Sage-grouse. (CPW Photo)

 

Conservation of Stillwater Ranch preserves the property’s open space character as well as its important habitat for elk, mule deer, bald eagles, and many other creatures, while still allowing the landowners to continue sustainable agricultural operations there.  Additionally, this project complements surrounding land conservation efforts in South Routt County – the property borders the 1,400-acre Brinker Creek Ranch, also under conservation easement held by YVLT, along with other such conserved properties in the area – strengthening ecosystem connectivity in this stretch of the Yampa Valley.

Stillwater Ranch is a conservation project of Yampa Valley Land Trust’s Ranchland Heritage Conservation Initiative.  To date, YVLT has permanently protected over 55,000 acres of working ranchland, open space, and wildlife habitat across Northwest Colorado.  Every conservation project preserves a sliver our heritage, from our storied agricultural economy and culture to our outdoor-centric way of life.  Land conservation benefits everyone who sets foot in this magnificent region!

This important project was made possible by funding from Routt County through its Purchase of Development Rights program, Great Outdoors Colorado, and the Vernon Summer Revolving Loan Fund, which assisted with transaction costs (read more about Vernon Summer and his endowment to YVLT here).  Most importantly, the generosity of the landowners – YVLT supporters – allowed this project come to fruition.

YVLT has exciting new conservation projects in the works.  Stay tuned! 

Donate today and we will put your conservation dollars to work in keeping Northwest Colorado landscapes healthy, connected, and filled with wildlife.

 

New Faces at YVLT’s Rehder Ranch Nature Preserve!

YVLT’s 250-acre Rehder Ranch Nature Preserve is a wildlife stronghold!

Here are a few of the creatures YVLT has captured on game cameras at the Rehder Ranch in recent months (click to enlarge):

Look to the lower left hand side of the photo . . . Yes, that is a mountain lion, aka "Catamount!"
Look to the lower left hand side of the photo . . . Yes, that is a mountain lion on the prowl, aka Catamount!

YVLT's Rehder Ranch provides sanctuary for a wide range of animals like the curious fellow seen here, who pawed at our game camera before moving on.
YVLT’s Rehder Ranch Nature Preserve provides sanctuary for a wide range of animals like the curious fellow seen here, who pawed at the game camera before moving on (look below).

YVLT's conservation projects have protected thousands of acres of critical elk habitat across Northwest Colorado - one of the reasons why Colorado still has the largest elk herd in the world!
YVLT’s conservation projects have protected thousands of acres of critical elk habitat across Northwest Colorado – one of the reasons why Colorado still has the largest elk herd in the world!

Many wildlife habitats throughout the state of Colorado exist on private lands, underscoring the importance of private land conservation from a wildlife standpoint.
Many wildlife habitats throughout the state of Colorado exist on private lands, underscoring the importance of private land conservation for wild animals.

Where did these come from?? The Rehder Ranch is surrounded by the Routt National Forest. These three are likely passing through looking for a way home!
Where did these come from??
The Rehder Ranch is surrounded by the Routt National Forest. These three are likely passing through looking for a way back home!

Wild turkeys have arrived at the Rehder Ranch Nature Preserve! [September 2016]

*Photos Courtesy of Ryan Gelling and Erin Birtwistle*

YVLT Acquires Conservation Easement on Yampa River Property: Iron Springs Ranch

Yampa River on Iron Springs RanchThe 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.