In the Spring of 2009, Helen Rehder graciously bequeathed the historic sheep ranch that she shared with her husband Henry (deceased) to Yampa Valley Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy to operate as a unique nature preserve and a community research center. The courts approved YVLT as the owner of the property with a conservation easement on the property held by TNC. Per the provisions of Helen Rehder’s Will, the Rehder’s historic sheep ranch on Harrison Creek has been preserved in perpetuity to be managed as a nature preserve, for the study of local plants and wildlife.
The 250-acre ranch is located south of Steamboat Springs and to the east of Catamount Reservoir. It is surrounded on three sides by USFS lands and is bisected by Harrison Creek.
Helen Rehder first approached Yampa Valley Land Trust in the late 1990s about taking on the ownership and stewardship responsibilities of the ranch after her death. Helen identified the two entities, YVLT and TNC to be involved in the property, to ensure her wishes were upheld. The Rehder Ranch will now operate as a unique nature preserve and a community research center – a focal point for promoting land conservation as well as studies of trout, elk, deer and a range of wildlife and ecosystems that encompass the ranch and Northwest Colorado.
“YVLT is honored by this incredible gift of the Rehder Ranch as a nature preserve and is committed to fulfilling Helen’s wishes,” says Susan Dorsey, executive director of the Yampa Valley Land Trust. YVLT will be raising funds to care for the property and rehabilitate the structure, one of which will eventually incorporate the Heritage Museum and Nature Center. The first project t is stabilization of the historic bank-barn foundation (a barn built into the hillside near the bank of Harrison Creek).”
Henry Rehder’s family homesteaded the Rehder Ranch around 1900. The family chose to run sheep instead of cattle because of the ranch’s relatively steep terrain. Henry died in 1998 and Helen passed away on Mother’s Day in 2004.
“I want to thank The Nature Conservancy for being such an incredible partner and collaborating with Yampa Valley Land Trust on this project,” Dorsey says. “With TNC’s assistance along with the diligence of both TNC and YVLT counsel, the Rehders’ dream of a nature preserve is now realized.”
The arrangement between YVLT and TNC effectively establishes respective managing and a guardian entities. The two nonprofit land conservation organizations have a similar cooperative arrangement with the Carpenter Ranch near Hayden. There, the roles are reversed, with Yampa Valley Land Trust holding the conservation easement and The Nature Conservancy owning and managing the historic ranching property. Having two conservation groups involved is simply an extra layer or guardianship, for long-term stability.
Future possibilities for the Rehder Ranch are plentiful, but all activities will fall within the terms of Helen’s will and the conservation easement. Per the terms of the Rehder Will, the land will remain private, but YVLT may bring scientists, researchers, interns and the public on the ranch for special programs that might include activities such as animal tracking, bird watching, fish and wildlife studies, historical research and archaeological studies.
Helen had a great passion for art and ancient history and collected artifacts like arrowheads from her meanderings around the ranch. Many years ago when Henry was digging fence posts by their home on the Rehder Ranch, he found a 5- to 6-inch spear point that was estimated to be over 10,000 years old, perhaps from the Clovis culture.
Helen depicted much of her beloved valley in oil paintings – one of her paintings with grazing sheep hangs at the Tread of Pioneers Museum. The Rehders also bequeathed to the City of Steamboat Springs, the historic First National Bank Building, also known as the “Rehder Building” located in downtown Steamboat Springs, which is now the home of the impressive Steamboat Art Museum. “This is an incredible way to honor Helen Rehder, her love of the arts, her ranch and historic buildings,” said Shirley Stocks, President/Curator of the nonprofit Steamboat Art Museum.
The Rehder Ranch continuously expands partnership opportunities for Yampa Valley Land Trust other research, educational, cultural and other non-profit organizations, including Historic Routt County!, Yampatika, state universities, Colorado Division Wildlife and the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. Above all else, the focus will remain on the Rehder Ranch’s inherent qualities as a nature preserve.
“What better way to honor Helen,” says YVLT Executive Director Susan Dorsey, “It reflects her deep love of the land, her love of art, her love for history and wildlife. This range of partners has the opportunity to touch so many aspects of this community and underscores Helen’s passion and her mission that mirrors our community’s passions and stated priorities. The opportunities are exciting.”