Routt County approves new conservation easement on Deep Creek

Deep Creek
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 Columbian sharp-tailed and sage grouse breeding leks.
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.

By Tom Ross