More than 2,000 acres of wildlife habitat north of Meeker is protected by a conservation easement. Lunney Mountain Ranch, owned by the Harvey family for several generations, provides a home for a broad variety of animals amongst its diverse landscape. Yampa Valley Land Trust facilitated the transaction to protect this land and holds the conservation easement.
The easement was purchased in 2007 with funding provided by the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). Along with facilitating the transaction, Yampa Valley Land Trust raised the funds for the easement which will be held in perpetuity by YVLT.
This is the kind of exceptional habitat that sportsmen want to protect for the future of Colorado’s wildlife resource. While this easement specifically protects valuable sharp-tailed grouse habitat, the easement also protects habitat for lots of other wildlife. ~ Ron Velarde, CPW Regional Manager for Northwest Colorado
The private ranch covers diverse terrain ranging from riparian habitat along Coal Creek (elevation 6,800 feet) to mountain shrub land and thick timber stands atop Lunney Mountain (elevation 8,500 feet). The ranch provides valuable habitat for Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, greater sage-grouse, mule deer, elk, black bears, mountain lions, several species of trout and dozens of species of small mammals and migratory and non-migratory song birds.
Columbian sharp-tailed grouse are increasingly found among the sagebrush and aspen stands of the ranch. Sharp-tailed grouse historically occupied 22 counties in western Colorado, but their range has reduced to populations in Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties. The Columbian sharp-tailed grouse was petitioned for listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1999, but determined to be not warranted for listing by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2000.
More than 500 elk and 100 mule deer winter on Lunney Mountain Ranch. Thousands more deer and elk migrate across the ranch during their annual journey between the summer range in the White River National Forest and winter range in the areas north and west of Meeker.
Riparian habitat along Coal Creek is critical for dozens of species of wildlife. About half of the wildlife species in the state utilize riparian habitat at some time during their lifecycle. The stream habitat on Lunney Mountain Ranch not only supports trout populations, but also supports beaver, salamander, leopard frogs, muskrat and songbirds in the numerous streamside stands of willow and cottonwood.
A management agreement for the property establishes guidelines and recommendations for improving wildlife habitat. CDOW will be responsible for monitoring the property to confirm that wildlife values and uses are maintained into the future.
Colorado Division of Wildlife is the state agency responsible for managing wildlife and its habitat, as well as providing wildlife related recreation. CDOW is funded through hunting and fishing license fees, federal grants and Colorado Lottery proceeds through Great Outdoors Colorado.
Great Outdoors Colorado uses a portion of Lottery proceeds for projects that preserve and enhance the state’s parks, wildlife, trails, rivers and open space. Since 1994, GOCO has awarded more than $2.5 million to projects in Rio Blanco County to date.
YVLT has completed several projects in Rio Blanco County to date and has many new projects in both Routt and Rio Blanco Counties in the works. As with Routt County, YVLT has been the leader in land conservation for the area. “It’s an honor to work on behalf of Northwest Colorado, preserving the lands that define the character of this place,” stated Susan Dorsey, Executive Director of Yampa Valley Land Trust, adding “YVLT is grateful for all of its donors and supporters – they all deserved a huge “thank you” for making a lasting difference in the Yampa River Valley, the White River Valley and elsewhere in this corner of the state. It is only with the financial support from our individual, business and foundation donors – that YVLT is able to make headway in conserving the best of what the Northwest has to offer.”