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.

YVLT in the News: Recapping Conservation Successes of 2016

Routt County’s ranch preservation program closes in on 50,000 acres conserved

By Tom Ross, Steamboat Pilot & Today (February 7, 2017)

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.

Stillwater Ranch in South Routt County.  Click here to read about the 724-acre project funded by Great Outdoors Colorado and Routt County Purchase of Development Rights.

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.

“Hard-Won Open Space”: Acclaimed Author Praises Local Conservation Efforts

Tempest Williams speaks in front of a packed audience at the Bud Werner Memorial Library.  Photo:  Tom Ross, Steamboat Pilot & Today

 Nationally-renowned author Terry Tempest Williams visited Steamboat Springs last year and came away impressed by the scope of land conservation in the Yampa Valley.

“I really have to honor this community,” Tempest Williams emphasized.  “Coming into this valley, you know that this open space is hard-won.”

Terry Tempest Williams has published a number of well-received environmental books, columns and articles.  She appeared on Ken Burns’ PBS series on National Parks and has received a number of prominent awards, including the Robert Marshall Award from The Wilderness Society (their highest honor given to an American citizen).

With so many competing land uses in Routt County, Tempest Williams is absolutely right about about our community’s conservation efforts: open space is hard-won in the Yampa Valley.  For nearly 25 years – and made possible only with your support – YVLT has worked to permanently protect over 55,290 acres across Northwest Colorado by way of 75 conservation easements.  Many of these complex real estate transactions are years (or even decades) in the works.

Fortunately, the citizens of Routt County have made protecting open space a priority with the voter-approved “Purchase of Development Rights” program, which has assisted with funding and matching funds for the acquisition of conservation easements on over 40,000 acres since it was first approved by voters in 1996.  Tens of thousands of additional acres have been conserved with the assistance of other funding entities, including Great Outdoors Colorado, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and various private foundations.  Further, nearly all land conservation in Routt County and Northwest Colorado is supported by a generous donation of conservation easement value provided by the landowners themselves.

“Tempest Williams offered high praise for Routt County’s will to preserve thousands of acres of ranch and farm lands by providing tax dollars to help fund conservation easements,” wrote Tom Ross in the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

This community’s dedication to land conservation is visible to residents and visitors alike, and it even plays a critical role in preserving our local outdoor recreation-based economy.  Take a look at YVLT’s conservation projects map, below, to see how far we have come in just under 25 years (click to enlarge):

2016-projects-map-crop-key

Support YVLT today and we will continue protecting the “hard-won open space” that defines our community!

Smart Spending: Land Conservation Nets a $6 Return on Every $1 Spent in Colorado!

We have always  known that land conservation is a smart long-term investment for any community, but research has confirmed that it also provides incredible economic value to the people of Colorado!  While we feel that it’s difficult to put a price tag on nature, wildlife, and aesthetic beauty, the methodology described below helps to explain the benefits of land conservation from a purely numbers-driven standpoint.

An economist at The Trust for Public Land determined that the citizens of Colorado have invested approximately $595 million in conservation easements between 1994 (the inception of Great Outdoors Colorado) and 2008 – and this investment has yielded a whopping return of $3.52 billion in ecosystem services.  That works out to a return of $6 for every dollar invested!  Most of us would happily realize a 6-to-1 return ratio on our personal investments.  The distinction is: this strategic long-term investment benefits everyone who lives, works, plays, or visits our community.  It’s not only a great deal.  It is an investment that is perpetual in duration; a Lasting Legacy for our community and a monument in this beautiful region.

To reach the figures cited above, the economist studied and quantified “ecosystem services” provided by every acre of land protected by conservation easement, which varies in monetary value depending on the type of ecosystem (such as wetlands, forests, ag lands, etc.).  Ecosystem services include things like clean water protection, fish and wildlife habitat, open space for recreation, agricultural production, carbon sequestration, scenic beauty, erosion and flood control, and so on; things that directly benefit our lives and the wildlife we share our world with.  Some ecosystems in particular were determined to provide substantial value, such as “Mixed Forests” ($880 in value per acre, per year) and “Woody Wetlands” ($784).

“The present value of Colorado’s $500 million investment from 1994 to 2008 is $595 million resulting in ecosystem service benefits of $3.52 billion, that is for every $1 invested by Colorado achieved a $6 benefit.  In addition, these benefits will continue to accrue into perpetuity on protected lands.”  [The Trust for Public Land]

Land conservation is an even better deal in Northwest Colorado, thanks to YVLT’s efforts to stretch every generous donation we receive.

Yampa Valley Land Trust works to carefully leverage your donations to give you the best possible return on investment.  YVLT has previously demonstrated the ability to turn $1 into approximately $220 in land conservation!

If you strive to maximize return on your investments…

Click here to donate to YVLT and see how $1 can turn into $6 (or more)!

 

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.