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.