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.
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.