News

Colorado’s diverse landscape has a rich natural and agricultural heritage that fuels the economy, a new analysis by Colorado State University researchers of state investments in conservation easements found. The 507-acre Chubb Park Ranch on Trout Creek Pass (pictured) was protected through the Conservancy by longtime rancher Joe Cogan in 2009.

Conservation easements reap benefits for Colorado

July 21, 2017 — A new analysis from Colorado State University  found that each dollar invested by the state for conservation easements produced benefits of between $4 and $12 for Coloradans. Public benefits include clean water and air, scenic views, access to things produced by local farms and ranch products, and wildlife habitat — all things that contribute to a high quality of life in the state.

Not surprisingly, state officials have repeatedly identified conservation of the state’s natural and agricultural lands as sound public policy. This includes providing incentives for conservation easements. These are legally binding agreements between private landowners and nonprofit land trusts such as the Central Colorado Conservancy to protect conservation values of a property.

Colorado State University researchers said data shows that easements are conserving land that is important for wildlife, agriculture, tourism and outdoor recreation for Colorado’s visitors and residents alike. The study, titled Investing In Colorado found that state programs have invested nearly $1.1 billion on conservation easements since 1995. Researchers who examined 2.1 million acres of Colorado lands with conservation easements said the related benefits for state residents are as high as $13.7 billion.


Childress joins Conservancy board

Donna Childress

July 17, 2017 — Leadville resident Donna Childress has joined the Central Colorado Conservancy Board of Directors.

Childress moved to Leadville from Virginia in 2016 after vacationing in Colorado for years and spending many hours in the mountains surrounding the Arkansas River Valley. She founded Childress Communications LLC in 2001. As a consultant, she provides strategic advice, shapes messages, and writes websites and other communications to help her clients reach audiences nationwide. She is the marketing consultant for the Lake County Tourism Panel.

Drawn to the area’s peaks, natural beauty, mining and agricultural history, and wide open spaces, Childress said she hopes to help preserve the valley’s wild and agricultural spaces in her position on the Conservancy’s board of directors.

“Donna is a great addition to the Conservancy’s board of directors. She joins ten very committed volunteer directors striving to protect the heart and soul of Central Colorado,” Executive Director Andrew Mackie said.


Fourth annual Nature-a-thon a success

Central Colorado Conservancy raises $6,000 and gains new participants in event focused on wildlife spotting

June 15, 2017 — The winning team of the 4th Annual Central Colorado Nature-a-thon spotted a record 135 species in 24 hours during the fundraising and educational event that took place in May. Participants raised $6,000 for the Conservancy’s wildlife habitat programs, while learning how to spot local wildlife in their habitats.

Fledgling great horned owls peek out from their nest during the 4th Annual Central Colorado Nature-a-thon that took place in May. The event raised $6,000 for the Conservancy’s wildlife habitat programs. Photo by Cindy Williams

“Seeing the variety of wildlife that was right in front of me, where usually I might have just driven right by, that was really special,” said Jane Jolley, president of the Central Colorado Humanists, which fielded an event team for the first time this year. “Next time I go out, I will be more aware and I’ll do a little bit better identifying after such a great experience.”

Participants like Jolley work in teams to find as many bird, mammal, fish, reptile and amphibian species as possible in a designated timeframe. Before they search, teams raise pledges and donations to support the fundraiser and competition. The event’s prior record set last year was 127 species in a 24-hour period.

The winning team, Counting Critters, visited three key locations, spotting wildlife on properties held in conservation easement by the Conservancy, team captain and Conservancy Board President Cindy Williams said.

Participants from the Humanists for Conservation team, Jan Ohmstede, left, Jane and Martin Jolley, and Mary Hellen Dunn, view fledgling great horned owls in a nest during the event. Photo by Cindy Williams

“I was reminded how important our local working lands are to wildlife,” Williams said. “We witnessed a herd of 60 elk, including many pregnant cows feeding around a local alfalfa field.” The team also saw beaver, trout and owls living near cascading ponds on another conservation easement north of Buena Vista.

The second place team, comprised of the Conservancy staff, found 129 species. Executive Director Andrew Mackie started the Nature-a-thon in 2014 to build awareness of wildlife species not always seen by residents, such as the plains garter snake dependent on wet meadows and the marsh wren nesting only in emergent wetlands in the area.

The Conservancy works on multiple projects that benefit wildlife, including habitat for lynx, moose, elk, bighorn sheep, black bear, cougar, waterfowl, raptors, songbirds and trout. The Lewis’s Woodpecker Project is our most recent effort dedicated to wildlife protection.


Conservation Stewards toil over multiple projects for healthy land, water resources

Western Native Seed owner Alex Tonnesen, right, his two daughters and Conservancy volunteer Dori Denning plant sedges during a wetland restoration project on June 5.

June 12, 2017 — Since its inception in April, the Conservation Stewards land stewardship team has cleared irrigation ditches, re-planted a wet meadow, created habitat for burrowing owls, pulled weeds, and planted dozens of trees at seven locations from north of Buena Vista to a ranch in Bighorn Sheep Canyon.

The tough assignments over nearly a dozen work days in two months involved wielding chainsaws and metal rakes, bending backs over muddy ground, toting wheelbarrows and large tree branches, and digging many, many holes for new trees and shrubs.

“You have to have a strong back,” said Chuck Washer, a Conservation Stewards volunteer from Nathrop.

Conservancy volunteer Kathy Hoerlein digs holes for cottonwood plantings to restore a wet meadow near Buena Vista.

Together, the Conservation Stewards cleared miles of ditch lines on five working ranches, launched a wetland restoration project on a dried up lakebed near Buena Vista and cleaned up a state wildlife area near Salida — all to improve local land and water resources. The diversity of the work and different project goals is a strength of the program, said coordinator Buffy Lenth, who appreciated gleaning a peek into life as a rancher through the irrigation ditch work.

“We’re helping ranchers maintain the open space, the wildlife habitat and local foods. Then we turn around and help Colorado Parks and Wildlife improve habitat, or restore a wetland where we’re putting in native plants,” said Lenth, the Conservancy’s watershed restoration specialist.

Conservation Stewards was developed to connect the community to conservation in a visceral way — with volunteers literally digging in the dirt to connect with it. The goal is to help improve the health of land and water resources through each individual project. Thirty volunteers have become involved since the team’s inception. Many of them also became new Conservancy members.

The team’s results are evident. While tree plantings take time to grow and thrive, a neighbor on the wetland restoration project expressed appreciation for the help, as well as hope for the future of the dry lake bed.

“It will be beautiful when we’re done,” said Cheryl Rauschke, secretary of the Yale Lakes Estates homeowners association.

The Conservation Stewards land stewardship team worked on five local ranches clearing irrigation ditches in April and May.

During the June 1 work day, Rauschke worked alongside new Conservancy member Kathy Hoerlein, who kneeled on wet ground digging holes for cottonwood plantings. Hoerlein volunteered for the wetland project even though she does not live in the neighborhood because riparian restoration fits into her interest in nature.

Work on the irrigation ditches delivered an immediate benefit — water for the growing season — and also many thanks from ranchers.

“We appreciate everything they did,” rancher Ellen Miller said of the work that took place over three days on the 200-acre Maverick Ranch east of Salida. “They were wonderful. They worked well, they gave up their time, and they did a fabulous job.

“I’d still be trying to do it because while my mind says I can, my body says no-you-can’t since I’m no spring chicken,” Miller added. “It saved us lots of time and I don’t know when we would have gotten it done without them.”

Volunteer work plays the important role of making up for budget shortfalls on public lands, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Wildlife Technician Matthew Coen said. The state agency increasingly relies on volunteers to complete projects.

“The volunteers are filling a huge need that we have as we are facing budgetary issues,” Coen said. “Getting local people involved and interested in what we’re doing is also a key component.”

The next work day on July 11 is in collaboration with CPW to improve a new state wildlife area west of Salida. Volunteers will remove old fence line to open migration routes for birds and large mammals, which can get caught in barbed wire.

To sign up or receive more information about Conservation Stewards and future events, contact buffy@centralcoloradoconservancy.org.


Tenacity and Love: Essential ingredients for conservation

Lillian Bender’s 86-acre Poncha Springs property has been placed under a conservation easement with the Conservancy.

April 29, 2017 — Thanks to Lillian Bender’s perseverance, 86 acres on both sides of the South Arkansas River are now protected forever. A proud native of Poncha Springs, Lillian honored the memory of her parents, Lawrence and Christine Bender, by donating a conservation easement to the Central Colorado Conservancy. Neighbor Ted Henry gifted much of this riverside property to Lillian’s parents back in the ’60s, in gratitude for their great care during the last years of his life. Some people also may remember Lillian’s father, Lawrence Bender, as one of the founders of Poncha Spring’s first fire department.

Lillian’s property, including 1⁄4 mile of the river, is home to songbirds, turkeys, deer, trout, an occasional bear, and a small herd of cattle. Lillian also worked with the Conservancy to restore part of her river frontage, allowing removal of the old vehicles and scrap her father had used to prevent flooding and bank impacts when high runoff threatened the neighborhood homes. The Conservancy restored the river to its historic function and look, created fish habitat and added to the riparian vegetation. The Conservancy partnered with National Trout Unlimited and the Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Funding for the restoration was provided by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Trout and Salmon Foundation, and Salida Sunrise Rotary.

The Bender property includes one-quarter mile of the South Arkansas River.

Lillian began to pursue the idea of a conservation easement about three years ago. She diligently gathered documents, hosted site visits, and worked closely with Conservancy ConservationDirector Lucy Waldo to create a conservation easement that fit Lillian’s needs. Central Colorado Conservancy submitted grant applications to Chaffee County and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) to help fund the costs of Lillian’s project. Both the County and GOCO recognized the benefits of protecting this unique agricultural and riparian property and granted funds to help Lillian with transaction costs for her donated conservation easement.

Lillian’s conservation easement also protects the piñon/ juniper hillside above the river valley, part of the viewshed for the Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway and the popular Methodist Mountain/Rainbow trail system. Lillian’s protected land will continue to provide food, shelter, and water for fish and wildlife, plus the beautiful views enjoyed by the local community and visitors.

“Now I know this land will remain protected and will never be filled up with buildings,” Lillian said. “It will be here for the birds and the animals forever. I can sit and listen to the brook bubbling and the birds singing and enjoy the peace.”

Central Colorado Conservancy is grateful to Lilian Bender for her vision. She has protected a critical property in Poncha Springs. This private property is active ranchland and is not open to the public.


Focus on wetlands for collaborative committee

April 28, 2017 — Central Colorado Conservancy is coordinating the Arkansas Headwaters Wetland Focus Area Committee, a group of natural resource professionals and concerned citizens working to protect, restore and enhance the function of our region’s wetlands and riparian areas.

While wetlands and riparian areas comprise only 2% of our region’s surface area, they are used by more than 80% of wildlife species. In addition to being hotspots of biodiversity, wetlands serve important functions like filtering and cleaning stormwater runoff, mitigating floods, and recharging our freshwater supply.

In the headwaters of our watershed conserving wetlands is especially important. If you have ever tried to wipe up a spill with a dry sponge, you’ll know that it doesn’t soak up much water. A moist sponge, however, will soak up a surprising volume of water. Wetlands act the same way. When soil is moist it can quickly absorb heavy rains or even floods. That water is then filtered, cleaned and stored underground. When this happens on a landscape scale the whole water table can rise, making our landscape more productive and fertile, increasing the health of the entire watershed.  The opposite is also true. As our landscape becomes drier, water more quickly runs off rather than being absorbed. More runoff creates water erosion and stream channels become deeply incised, dropping the entire water table and turning our landscape into a dry sponge.

There are several threats to our region’s wetlands including piping of irrigation ditches, dry-up of ranches (when water is sold off to downstream municipalities), dry-up of ponds when landowners do not own enough water rights to cover evaporative loss, housing developments, and road building. The Wetland Focus Area Committee is working on a strategic plan to mitigate these threats and come up with specific strategies to accomplish our goals.  These will likely include multiple approaches like conservation easements, restoration projects and community education.

The Conservancy took on the collaboration effort of the Wetland Focus Area Committee because of the importance of forming these working relationships and protecting our limited wetland and riparian areas. The Conservancy’s watershed restoration specialist, Buffy Lenth, is coordinating this effort. If you would like to join our committee please contact her at buffy@centralcoloradoconservancy.org.


Get your hands dirty for conservation!

Join the Conservancy’s new land stewardship team to support the local landscape

March 17, 2017 — Central Colorado Conservancy seeks volunteers to join an active team working on projects that support our agricultural and public lands, ultimately improving the health of our land and water resources.

Central Colorado Conservancy seeks volunteers to join the Conservation Stewards, a new team of volunteers working on projects that improve the health of land and water resources. An upcoming project will improve habitat for the bright-eyed burrowing owl.

Volunteers with the organization’s Conservation Stewards team plant trees on riverbanks, remove old fencing to open wildlife migration routes, and clear ditches to increase water flow. The projects allow you to improve the landscape for benefits such as ranching, wildlife, water quality and local food production.

View the team’s upcoming projects on our Upcoming Events page!

“This is an opportunity for you to get your hands in the dirt, put down roots in this community, and give back to the lands that provide us with clean water, life-giving soils, food, wildlife, awe inspiring beauty and a bounty of recreational opportunities,” coordinator Buffy Lenth said.

Lenth is the Conservancy’s Watershed Restoration Specialist. This spring and summer, Conservation Stewards will help local ranchers get ready for irrigation season by clearing ditches, create habitat for Burrowing Owls, restore a wet meadow near Buena Vista, and plant a stream bank along the South Arkansas River near Poncha Springs,.

An upcoming project involves digging homes for the grassland-living burrowing owl. These small owls nest and roost in burrows such as those excavated by prairie dogs. Working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to identify appropriate locations for this work, the Conservancy will improve habitat for this gregarious, bright-eyed bird.

The Conservancy provides the Conservation Stewards volunteers training in local plant ecology, ecosystem services, restoration and planting techniques, and wildlife habitat enhancement to prepare them with the tools needed to make a meaningful contribution to the health of our local landscape. Through projects on private lands, volunteers support working agriculture while gaining knowledge of local ranch operations.

For more information, contact Buffy at buffy@centralcoloradoconservancy.org or 719-539-7700.


Conservancy seeks Volunteer Coordinator

Educational outings — such as this free snowshoe hike to Raspberry Gulch near Nathrop on March 4 — are just one example of the many events in which Conservancy volunteers help connect our communities to conservation. Contact us if you are a motivated, organized person interested in helping to coordinate our many volunteers.

March 10, 2017 — Central Colorado Conservancy seeks a motivated leader to help take on the task of volunteer coordination for the organization. This volunteer position will work with all of our other volunteers to build a strong effort toward achieving community conservation program goals affecting land, water and wildlife here in Central Colorado.

Conservancy volunteers carry out a wide range of projects from land stewardship, land and water restoration, community outreach, education, special events, and more. We need help from an individual who is highly organized and wants to be part of a growing program of local conservation.

Volunteer Coordinator duties include helping to structure the volunteer program, recruiting of new volunteers, scheduling, as well as organizing volunteer training and recognition events.

If interested, please contact Executive Director Andrew Mackie at 719-539-7700 or email andrew@centralcoloradoconservancy.org.


Additional section of South Arkansas River restored

December 15, 2016 — Central Colorado Conservancy completed another restoration project on the South Arkansas River in Poncha Springs early this month. The project, located upstream of the Highway 285 bridge, is part of our multi-year effort to restore the South Arkansas River from its headwaters near Monarch Pass to its confluence with the Arkansas River.

Before restoration, a large abandoned beaver dam (already removed) caused water to flow around an island and back up on the property, eroding banks in the large meander. Photo by Jason Willis

Before restoration, a large abandoned beaver dam (already removed) caused water to flow around an island and back up on the property, eroding banks in the large meander. Photo by Jason Willis

The Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited and National Trout Unlimited were both partners on the project. Restoration encompassed 1,100 feet of the river, bringing the total number of feet restored on the South Arkansas to 2,500.

We have worked with six adjacent landowners located both upstream and downstream of the bridge since completing the first-ever assessment of the river in 2010. Within these projects, 400 native trees and shrubs were planted along the river. The South Arkansas is a major tributary to the Arkansas River and merges with it in the middle of a 103-mile stretch of Gold Medal Trout Waters. In addition to improving the fishery, river restoration improves water quality for municipal and agricultural use.

After restoration, natural structures help control the river grade between upstream and downstream sections. The river now has a serviceable flood plain that will absorb high flows, and bank erosion is under control. Photo by Jason Willis

After restoration, natural structures help control the river grade between upstream and downstream sections. The river now has a serviceable flood plain that will absorb high flows, and bank erosion is under control. Photo by Jason Willis

This project proved challenging because a large, abandoned beaver dam had rerouted water flow on the property, causing erosion and threatening a structure, National Trout Unlimited Project Manager Jason Willis said.

“With this project not only does the landowner get to fix his property, but we also get to improve the associated ecosystem,” Willis said. “These ecosystem improvements don’t happen with one specific project. It is a culmination of smaller projects that fit together to restore and reconnect the entire watershed.”

Restoration projects also improve vegetation along the banks. Plants filter pollutants out of water run-off before it enters the river, provide stream bank stability, and provide habitat for birds and mammals that use the river corridor for migration and movement. We hold a conservation easement on the property and, as with all of our easements, will monitor it to make sure the land retains its conservation values in perpetuity.

Funding for this project was provided by the Great Outdoors Colorado riparian grant program, the Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Salida Sunrise Rotary, the Upper Arkansas Conservation District, the landowner, and Central Colorado Conservancy.


Central Colorado Conservancy thanks our community for Annual Event support

November 20, 2016 — Central Colorado Conservancy wants to thank the community for a very successful event in November. We raised $44,000 for our conservation work in Central Colorado!

We want to thank Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, Eddyline Brewery, Arlie Dale’s Jug Liquors, and Sweetie’s Sandwich Shop for their generous donations. A heart felt thank you to our gold sponsors for their generous support: Allan C. Beezley, PC, Central Colorado Title and Escrow, Marquez and Herrick-Stare, LLC, Pinon Real Estate Group, and Powell & Murphy, PC. Thank you to our silver sponsors: Collegiate Peaks Bank, Colorado Central Magazine, DeLarue Building Company, First Colorado Land Office, Jane B. Fredman, LLC, HydroGEO Designs, LLC, Michael D. Scott, Attorney, Timberline Partners, and Vely Agency, LLC. Thank you to our individual sponsors: John Andrick, Denny Arter, Dick Cuyler, Mary Cuyler, Dennis Kist, Dan Larkin, Kate Larkin, Tim Martin, Ann Mason, Gary Mason, Linda Mulka, Robert Sander, Cliff Wurster, and Doris Wurster.

That night we were able to auction off 55 items, raising money for conservation easements, ecological restoration, stewardship and education programs. This was thanks to: Tomichi Lodge, High Country News, The Pilates Studio, Dick Cuyler, Mary Cuyler, Samar Fay, Lisa Marvel, Svata Louda, Rod Otley, Cindy Williams, Brad Leach, Lee Coveney, Dan Smith, Clear Creek Ranch, Hayden Mellsop, Chaco, Oswald Cattle Company, The Lost Wonder Hut, Salida Mountain Sports, Mt. Shavano Ski Shop, Natural Habitat Adventure, Monarch Mountain, Denver Art Museum, Lucy Waldo, Royal Gorge Railroad, Georgetown Loop Railroad, Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Orient Land Trust, Dove Graphics, Dvorak Rafting and Kayak Expeditions, Adidas Outdoor, The Yoga Tonic, Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, Marsha Brown, Icelantic, D&J Rare Gems, Pioneer Wine, GIRO, Therm-A-Rest, Mountain Hardwear, Dynafit, Spirit Mountain, Eagle Optics, Mary Anne Mills, Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply, Wood’s High Mountain Distillery, Carol Cartwright, Tim Kennedy, Central Colorado Conservancy Board of Directors, Fred Rasmussen, Jeanne and Randy Herrick-Stare, Hodgepodge, Arc’Teryx, Leopold Bros Distillery, Boathouse Distillery, Cascade Designs, Suunto, Dana and Keith Ladzinski, Intentions Spa, Simple Foods Market, and Souled Out T-Shirts.

The event would not have been possible without the work of Central Colorado Conservancy staffer Julie Richardson. Our sincere appreciation to the volunteers who made the event run smoothly, including: Marsha Brown, Dori Denning, Carol DeStefanis, Michael Fischer, Janet Franz, Jeanne Herrick-Stare, Rebecca Hinds, Hayden Mellsop, Hallie Bare Mahowald, Susan Nies, Terry Peterson, John Russell, Michael Scott, and Cindy Williams. Our gratitude to Jerry Tinianow, Chief Sustainability Officer for City and County of Denver for his presentation during the event. Finally, congratulations to Fred Rasmussen recipient of our Conservationist Award for his life time of dedicated work on behalf of the natural world.

During the event, we outlined our plans for the future. Please continue reading the story below for more details. Thank you!


LTUA becomes Central Colorado Conservancy and sets new goals 
to triple its rate of conservation

logo-central-coloraod-conservancy_finalNovember 18, 2016 — The Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas changed its name to Central Colorado Conservancy, the nonprofit announced at its Annual Event and Fundraiser on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016.

The change is the result of a year-long strategic planning process that identified growing threats to conservation in the region, such as Colorado’s population projections, disappearing agricultural lands and water diversions to the Front Range, Executive Director Andrew Mackie said.

“Our members have told us that our most important goal is to preserve land for agriculture, wildlife habitat, views, and our sense of place — the qualities that make this region special,” Mackie said at the event attended by more than 150 people at Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort. “Our 10-year plan aims to help do that, and our new name and logo will support the plan.”

The organization’s 14-member board of directors completed the planning process by conducting a membership survey, holding multiple focus groups and hiring Buena Vista-based Arkansas Valley Designs to direct the re-branding process and design the new logo.

“This was an in-depth assessment of our organization and evaluation of the trends that will impact our region,” Mackie said. “The result is a refined vision and mission, a commitment to protect 20,000 additional acres of land, and other goals that will triple our rate of conservation in the next decade.”

The organization reported Thursday that 35 percent of the region’s agricultural lands have disappeared since the 1980s. Some of these lands are purchased for development or water rights that are then diverted to Front Range cities.

“Across our service area today, more than 8 billion gallons of water that used to be dedicated for agriculture is transferred every year to Front Range cities for municipal use,” Mackie said.

Through conservation easements, the land trust works to protect wildlife habitat, keep healthy waters in the region, and preserve the open lands the community enjoys.

“As Colorado’s population doubles by 2050, Central Colorado will continue to see more residents and visitors,” Mackie said. “That is good for our economy but clearly, now is the time to act to preserve our special places and resources.”

Mackie said the organization’s goals include restoring an additional four miles of waterways and planting 50,000 trees and shrubs through its restoration programs, as well as engaging 3,000 community participants annually and doubling its membership and volunteers to connect people to the region’s natural and agricultural lands.

The land trust was established 15 years ago in response to growing development pressures in the Upper Arkansas River Valley. Its first project preserved 600 acres near the Game Trail subdivision northwest of Buena Vista. The land agreement protected an important migration route and winter habitat for the American elk herd that continues to use the area today.

Since its inception, Central Colorado Conservancy has helped protect and restore 10,000 acres in its five-county service area of Chaffee, Lake, Park, Fremont and Saguache counties. It holds more than 30 conservation easements and owns two properties.

Projects include protecting the headwaters of the Arkansas River in Lake County, mountain biking trails near Salida, and a wildlife corridor on top of Poncha Pass, among many others.

Along with the new name, the organization rewrote its tagline to, “Protecting the land and waters that sustain us,” and created a colorful logo depicting mountains, habitat, agriculture and clean water.


Central Colorado Conservancy receives accreditation certificate at national conference

accreditation

Board Member Jeanne Herrick-Stare receives our accreditation certificate at the National Land Trust Conference in Minneapolis.

Central Colorado Conservancy received its accreditation certificate at the National Land Trust Conference in Minneapolis in late October, 2016.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded us accreditation, signifying its confidence that Central Colorado Conservancy lands will be protected forever.

Accredited land trusts across the country have permanently conserved more than 15 million acres of farms, forests and natural areas that are vital to healthy, vibrant communities.

Central Colorado Conservancy joins the 342 land trusts across the country that demonstrate their commitment to professional excellence through accreditation, helping to maintain the public’s trust in their work.


Trail crews improve Salida’s downtown Monarch Spur Trail

Work on Salida’s popular Monarch Spur Trail is well underway this summer, as trail crews from the Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) arrived and began pulling weeds and planting native vegetation at the end of June.

The Salida Trail Ecological Restoration Project (STERP) is a partnership among Central Colorado Conservancy, Salida-area Parks, Open-space and Trails (SPOT), the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA), and the City of Salida and Chaffee County.

On the second day working on Salida’s Monarch Spur Trail system, SCC trail crew member Zeke Zeff digs down into the roots of teasel, then removes and tosses the plant into a pile. 

On the second day working on Salida’s Monarch Spur Trail system, SCC trail crew member Zeke Zeff digs down into the roots of teasel, then removes and tosses the plant into a pile.

During their first four-day “hitch” in June, the SCC trail crew pulled cheatgrass, teasel, mullein and Canada thistle from First to Fifth streets in downtown Salida, and on the Milk Run Trail further west. These plants are noxious weeds that proliferate quickly and crowd out native vegetation.

The trail crew also planted a stormwater mitigation wetland in front of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area visitor center on West Sackett Avenue. The wetland includes plants that will filter stormwater runoff coming down H Street and other streets in big rain events, cleaning the water in Ditch Creek before it enters the Gold Medal waters of the Arkansas River. Many wetland plants are known for taking up pollutants to improve water quality. One plant the SCC crew added, the Blue Flag Iris, might have the ability to kill waterborne viruses.

The trail crew also planted a new habitat “island” between First and Second streets that includes Rocky Mountain juniper, Western sagebrush, rabbitbrush and Apache plum. These trees and shrubs will provide new habitat for birds, food for insect pollinators (especially native bees), and create a “screen” of native vegetation to help prevent weeds from spreading back along the trail.

Finally, the crew weeded, seeded, mulched and added native wildflower seed to existing habitat islands that have been planted over the past three summers on the trail system.

Central Colorado Conservancy received a grant from the Colorado Garden Foundation this year to support STERP. The grant includes nearly $7,000 for the cost of native trees, shrubs, grass seed and tools. The City of Salida received $39,000 from the state’s Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant program to pay for SCC trail crews.

With an office in Salida, the SCC operates conservation service programs in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico that help people positively impact communities and the environment by working on local public land issues.

Aleksandra Swieton crossed Ditch Creek to take a moment to interact with the local animal population. The Chicagoan said she learned about plant identification and the local ecology while gaining an appreciation for Colorado’s natural beauty during her time in Salida.

Aleksandra Swieton crossed Ditch Creek to take a moment to interact with the local animal population. The Chicagoan said she learned about plant identification and the local ecology while gaining an appreciation for Colorado’s natural beauty during her time in Salida.

SCC trail crew member Aleksandra Swieton said she not only learned about ecology and the importance of water rights during her work here in June, but also gained a general appreciation for the state of Colorado and its beauty. The 22-year-old Chicagoan said she is interested in a career in permaculture and wants to some day be a farmer.

Trail crew members attended educational programs organized by project partner leaders, for example to gain insight about how to track the reduction of weeds over time. GARNA Program Coordinator Dominique Naccarato gave a Power Point presentation on how GPS programs can be used to help track success through projects such as STERP.

Central Colorado Conservancy’s Executive Director Andrew Mackie discussed his career working for land trusts and the National Audubon Society, impressing upon the young adults how volunteering in the natural resources field can help start their careers.

SCC crews will continue working on the Monarch Spur Trail in July and September.

In July, a crew encompassing local high school students will receive intensive educational lessons on ecological functions, weed identification and safe removal, proper planting techniques, and bird and insect identification, while focusing their work along the Striker Trail.

The high school student crew will also participate in a discussion with Central Colorado Conservancy, GARNA, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife professionals to understand what careers might be available to them in conservation and resource management.

After cutting Canada thistle, STERP Project Coordinator Buffy Lenth sprays the stem with common vinegar to prevent the noxious weed from regrowing.

After cutting Canada thistle, STERP Project Coordinator Buffy Lenth sprays the stem with common vinegar to prevent the noxious weed from regrowing.

STERP also is receiving a lot of help from a group of residents who are volunteering to remove weeds and plant native vegetation along the Monarch Spur Trail, according to STERP Project Coordinator Buffy Lenth, who was hired by Central Colorado Conservancy through a grant provided by SPOT, to organize trail work this summer.

“We are really capitalizing on the momentum and enthusiasm among this group of locals to do more plantings along the trail this summer,” Lenth said.

The Monarch Spur and associated trails include two-and-a-half miles of paved pathway that connect Salida’s residential areas to downtown and additional business services on Highway 50. The pathway is popular with bicyclists, pet-walkers and everyone who chooses to get around town under their own power, rather than driving cars. It passes an elementary school, the community garden, and the dog park.

The trail, originally an old railroad bed, is owned by the City of Salida. It has an overabundance of noxious invasive plants, which crowd out native vegetation and make it difficult for insect pollinators to survive.

SCC trail crew members Reena Lam, left, and Natalie Allen pull weeds from the side of the Milk Run Trail west of downtown Salida.

SCC trail crew members Reena Lam, left, and Natalie Allen pull weeds from the side of the Milk Run Trail west of downtown Salida.

Through weed removal and planting habitat “islands” along the trail, STERP project partners envision a long, ecologically diverse setting along the length of the trail. Native vegetation adds interest for trail users while benefitting wildlife such as birds and small mammals. As new trees grow, they will shade Ditch Creek, which parallels sections of the trail, and improve water quality for wildlife and human use.

 

If you are interested in becoming a STERP volunteer, please contact Buffy Lenth at STERPcoordinator@ltua.org.


Central Colorado Conservancy receives nearly $83,000 in grants

GOCO funding will help protect property on the South Arkansas and Arkansas rivers and keep conserved lands in agriculture

Central Colorado Conservancy received $82,540 in grants from the state’s Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) program during its most recent funding cycle. Money will support three important Central Colorado Conservancy projects — two focused on protecting property on the region’s largest rivers, and a third for determining how to keep preserved lands in agriculture.

Under GOCO’s conservation easement transaction costs program, Central Colorado Conservancy received $34,500 for the Bender Conservation Easement to conserve approximately 86 acres along the South Arkansas River in Poncha Springs. Protecting this property on the “Little River” will provide improved agricultural and municipal water supply, sustain wildlife populations, and support a historic ranching operation. The conservation easement will prevent development, support local agriculture, and protect views from the Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway and from the Rainbow Trail.

Central Colorado Conservancy also received a $40,400 transaction costs grant for the 50-acre Wichmann property on the Arkansas River.

Wichmann_1

The Wichmann Property preserves scenic views for rafters and anglers.

Wichmann_3

The Land Trust received a $40,000 grant to help protect the Wichmann Property.

This project north of Buena Vista protects scenic views for rafters and anglers, as well as motorists on the Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway along Highway 24.
Protecting the property will also conserve important riparian and wetland habitat and protect critical migration routes for wildlife.

Central Colorado Conservancy also received a $7,640 conservation excellence grant from GOCO to support our project that is focused on keeping conserved land in farming and ranching.

This project determines how to keep lands in agriculture to create food, jobs, and ecological benefits for Colorado.

“Agriculture is a needed part of our local economy and protecting this resource is a benefit for all our residents by helping to maintain our food security, heritage, and landscape,” Central Colorado Conservancy Executive Director Andrew Mackie said.

A total of $20.7 million in GOCO grants was awarded to protect 19 miles of rivers and streams, build school playgrounds, and conserve nearly 40,000 acres of land across the state. A portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds fund the GOCO grant program, which was created when voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1992. GOCO has since funded more than 4,700 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support.


 Central Colorado Conservancy Earns National Accreditation

Central Colorado Conservancy has been working on its national accreditation application for the last few years. The process is comprehensive and involves all aspects of land trust operations.

We are pleased to announce the Land Trust Accreditation Commission has awarded accreditation to Central Colorado Conservancy. This is a real mark of honor in land conservation. Accreditation confirms the work Central Colorado Conservancy is doing is at the highest level possible and its lands will be protected forever.

Accredited land trusts across the country have permanently conserved more than 15 million acres of farms, forests and natural areas that are vital to healthy, vibrant communities.

“Accreditation demonstrates our commitment to land and water conservation in Central Colorado,” Central Colorado Conservancy Board President Michael Scott said. “We are a stronger organization for having gone through the rigorous accreditation program, and this strength will help make our region an even better place for us and our children.”

Central Colorado Conservancy has helped protect more than 9,000 acres in its five-county region of Chaffee, Lake, Park, Saguache and Fremont counties.

The organization holds more than 4,000 acres in conservation easements. These legal agreements between a landowner and the Land Trust permanently limit the use of the land in order to protect certain conservation values.

The Conservancy’s most recent conservation easement protects the 550-acre historic Headwaters Ranch north of Leadville, where public fishing access will be provided later this year.

Central Colorado Conservancy has protected several ranches in the area helping to maintain our local agricultural production and ranching heritage. The Land Trust works with ranching families to help them find options to maintain their agricultural operations.

More than 400 acres of private property near the Heckendorf State Wildlife Area northwest of Buena Vista is protected from development though the Conservancy’s work. These land are important for herds of American elk that graze in the valley during deep-snow winters.

Elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, black bear, mountain lion, and lynx are known to migrate through a 660-acre ranch on Poncha Pass that was protected by the Land Trust to maintain the important wildlife corridor between the Sangre de Cristo and Sawatch mountain ranges.

The Conservancy also helped protect land for hiking and biking trails in the Arkansas Hills east of Salida, and is actively engaged in multiple river and trail restoration projects throughout the Valley.

Central Colorado Conservancy joins the 342 land trusts across the country that demonstrate their commitment to professional excellence through accreditation, helping to maintain the public’s trust in their work.

“Accredited land trusts stand united behind strong national standards, ensuring the places people love will be conserved forever,” Land Trust Accreditation Commission Executive Director Tammara Van Ryn said. “Over 75 percent of private lands conserved by land trusts are now held by an accredited land trusts.”


Land Trust continues conservation work in 2015

A year of accomplishments for Central Colorado Conservancy include significant gains in land and water protection in the organization’s five-county region.

The Conservancy completed a multi-year conservation easement this year on the 550-acre historic Headwaters Ranch north of Leadville.

The ranch was the No. 1 property on the Lake County Open Space Initiative’s wish list because it offers stunning views, unparalleled wildlife habitat and excellent fishing on the East Fork of the Arkansas River.

“This conservation easement is especially significant because in addition to preserving open space and protecting wildlife habitat, we were also able to secure public access,” Central Colorado Conservancy Executive Director Andrew Mackie said. “The public will be able to fish three miles of the river in an area where today, there is no access.”

Mackie said the new access could relieve pressure on downstream fishing locations in Chaffee County and help Leadville attract anglers to their community. More than 700 anglers a year are expected to use the Headwaters Ranch fishing access once parking lots and trails are built by the end of summer of 2016.

The Conservancy also took ownership of 12 acres near Salida this year, and hopes to create public access in the future.

To date, Central Colorado Conservancy has helped protect more than 9,000 acres in Central Colorado and holds 4,202 acres in conservation easement.

Conservation easements are an important tool that help landowners protect property from development in perpetuity.

This year both Congress and the Colorado Legislature passed new laws that enhance federal income tax deductions and state tax credits for property owners who choose to protect property under conservation easements. Central Colorado Conservancy worked in cooperation with the national land trust community to achieve these important changes.

In addition to land conservation, the Conservancy worked to restore land and water resources in its service area this year, planting 350 native trees and shrubs in restoration areas and conducting water quality testing on the South Arkansas River.

The Land Trust’s 2016 South Arkansas River project will enhance the fishery, reduce erosion, and improve water quality and riparian habitat along 3,000 feet of the river in both Poncha Springs and Salida.

A restoration project also will take place on the Arkansas River near the Chaffee and Lake County boundary.

The organization has budgeted $80,000 over two years for these river projects. It is still working to raise the final $10,000 for 2016 activities.

As part of its land and water conservation mission, the Conservancy conducts both technical trainings and general public programs on the natural and agricultural world. This year the Land Trust conducted 14 programs reaching several hundred individuals helping connect them to the importance of protecting our critical resources.

The Conservancy also worked with the Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway producing a first ever conservation plan for the Byway and Central Colorado Conservancy helped develop economic strategies for landowners along the Byway with an effort to maintain traditional land uses such as agriculture.

The Conservancy volunteer program is growing and is in need of additional volunteers to help with restoration projects, conservation easement monitoring, programs, special events and planning.

“2016 is shaping up to be another major year for conservation work in Central Colorado”, stated Andrew Mackie, Executive Director of the Conservancy. “Central Colorado Conservancy is working on conservation easements and other land conservation projects in four counties. We need support from everyone who appreciates and takes advantage of the amazing natural resources we have in this area”, Mackie stated.

The Conservancy is funded through membership dues, donations and fundraising programs. Twenty local businesses participate in its Common Cents for Conservation program — a voluntary 1 percent donation of sales to support the organization’s work.

The Common Cents program, which has been in operation for 12 years, generated $50,000 in 2015 toward the Conservancy’s $250,000 operating budget.

Through grant programs and other fundraising, the Conservancy has raised $7.5 million since 2009 to secure conservation easements and other land protection agreements in Central Colorado. These funds help local landowners, businesses and area contractors.

“Central Colorado has no doubt been discovered as desirable place to live and visit,” Board President Michael Scott said. “That is exciting for its economic potential but we cannot forget the reasons why this has happened. As we face future growth and development pressure, it is imperative that we remember our special places and take strong steps toward protecting them.”

Central Colorado Conservancy accepts donations of cash, securities, real estate, life insurance policies, retirement plan gifts and bequests to support its conservation work and program needs.

Visit www.ltua.org or call the office at 719-539-7700 for more information about becoming a member, a volunteer or a donor.


Congress Passes Tax Incentives for Conservation

On Friday, Dec. 18, Congress passed legislation that makes permanent the federal tax incentives for land conservation, after years of effort by LTUA and other members of the national Land Trust Alliance to make this happen. The President was expected to sign the bill as early as Saturday.

The legislation makes several tax incentives permanent including the Conservation Easement Incentive.

Having this tax deduction permanent makes conservation easements more rewarding for landowners, especially ranchers and farmers. When combined with the Colorado State Conservation Easement Tax Credit for landowners, it is a perfect time to talk to us about conservation options for your property.

Agricultural producers who donate a conservation easement can claim a federal tax deduction of up to 100% of the donor’s adjusted gross income in any year. Other landowners who donate a conservation easement can claim a federal tax deduction of up to 50% of other landowner’s adjusted gross income in any year. Donors may carry forward any unused deduction for up to 15 years after the year of the donation until the deduction is fully used.

LTUA’s expert staff has a combined 25-years of experience helping landowners with conservation easements, and we are here to help ranchers and other landowners figure out if a conservation easement is right for them. We are available to sit down and go over all the details of how conservation easements work and what benefits are available. Please call LTUA Conservation Director Lucy Waldo at 970-901-1816, or the main office at 719-539-7700 for more information.


LTUA sets fundraising goal of $10,000 for river restoration projects

In addition to protecting land and water resources in the Upper Arkansas River Valley, the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas is engaged in several projects that focus on environmental stewardship — caring for and improving resources for generations to come.

These restoration projects focus on areas critical to the wellbeing of our natural environment — watersheds and riparian areas. It is estimated that less than 1% of land area in the Western U.S. is riparian or wetland, yet 80% of our wildlife species depend on them for survival at some stage of their lives.

The Land Trust has placed more than 4 miles of Arkansas River headwaters under direct protection, and is undertaking restoration projects on tributaries that are critical to the region’s water quality. Three ongoing projects are located on the Arkansas River and the South Arkansas, with more projects in the pipeline. Work will enhance riparian habitat and water quality, diminish the effects of erosion, and improve habitat for fish and wildlife.

Over the next two years, the Land Trust has budgeted $80,000 for these projects; $40,000 for the current budget and $40,000 in 2016. We have secured funding for $30,000 of this year’s allocation, and we are asking for your support to help raise the remaining $10,000.

Please consider making a contribution of whatever amount you can, be it $50, $500 or $5,000. All donations are tax deductible as allowed by law. The Land Trust staff is happy to explain our river restoration projects in greater detail — just give the office a call.

Please download the pledge form and give today. Thank you for your support!


 

Final Phase of the Headwaters Ranch Conservation Easement Completed

by Andrew Mackie
When driving through Lake County, Colorado your lungs go into overdrive to extract every molecule of oxygen possible. Approaching Leadville from the south you enter the 10,100-foot high city and realize this is different from everywhere else. Over your shoulder to the southwest are the two highest peaks in Colorado, Elbert and Massive. At this point you have to wonder if shortness of breath is due to the elevation or the unbelievable scenery.

Entering Leadville is a journey back in time. The signs of the past are everywhere, from the mine tailing piles to the architectural ornate buildings constructed from fortunes made on gold, silver, and copper. Continue your trek out of Leadville to northeast on Route 91 and soon the road will follow the meandering course of the East Fork of the Arkansas River. This is a very different river from lower in the Valley. Many would call this water course a creek as any normal throwing arm could easily put a stone across it. You have reached the very headwaters of the mighty Arkansas River. If you were able to mark and follow one water droplet from the River’s source through plunging rapids, numerous towns and cities, past agricultural fields, by dams, you are the farthest point of the start of this journey to its connection with the Mississippi River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.

The River’s riparian zone also looks different here. Gone are the cottonwood trees found at lower elevations, replaced by broad plains of shrubby willows, called willow carrs. Beaver ponds add to the complexity and diversity of the River. In some areas green carpets of grasses and sedges dominate.

It is this area that the Land Trust has been working for the last several years. The Headwaters Ranch is mostly a linear property stretching from approximately mile marker two to six on Route 91. The Arkansas River flows through this entire property. In a close partnership, the Land Trust has been working with the Colorado Office of the Trust for Public Land (TPL). TPL bring years of experience to the table especially in complicated, large transactions such as Headwaters Ranch. The project was dependent on the landowner’s interest and cooperation. Jim and Larry are the two owners making up Birdseye Land and Water, LLC. They both wanted to see this special property protected. Earlier this year the Land Trust and TPL closed on the third and final phase of a conservation easement. We had already completed two phases totaling 375-acres. Phase three adds another 175-acres for a grand total of 550-acres and just over a three mile stretch of the Arkansas River.

Headwaters Ranch Conservation Easement, Phase III

Headwaters Ranch Conservation Easement, Phase III

Headwaters Ranch is dominated by wetlands along the River. The wetlands are important for many species of wildlife. As you get away from the River, forests cover the landscape varying from stands of lodgepole pine to spruce-fir forest. This mix of habitat provides both food and shelter for species such as: elk, moose, mule deer, black bear, bobcat, coyote, red fox, lynx, mink, snowshoe hare, and many species of birds. In addition to the wildlife values, public fishing is included in the conservation easement. The Land Trust is working with the landowners and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to establish parking areas, signage and trails for this fishing access. It will probably take at least another year before open to the public. All of these values made this a high priority project for the Land Trust, TPL, and other groups. Several years ago the Lake County Commission relayed to the Land Trust that this section of the River was a high priority for them. Headwaters Ranch became the highest priority for the Lake County Open Space Initiative (LCOSI). The Land Trust is a member of LCOSI and we helped rank priority projects in Lake County.

Wooden stave line on Headwaters Ranch

Wooden stave line on Headwaters Ranch

The Ranch is also rich in history. Found on the property is a historic wooden stave line that transported water to Leadville. This was part of the Stevens and Leiter Ditch with water rights filed on September 1, 1873. The original owners of the rights were the Leadville Water Company and the Leadville Power, Water, and Mining Company. The decreed amount was 38 cubic feet per second. The stave line is buried or totally absent in places but can still be found in certain areas.

Overall, the Headwaters Ranch Conservation Easement is a monumental accomplishment. Saved in perpetuity are the natural and historical values of not just 550-acres of the Ranch but of the headwaters of the Arkansas River. The Land Trust is grateful to have worked with the landowners, TPL, LCOSI, Lake County and the funders who made the project possible, including: Upper Arkansas Natural Resource Damage and Restoration Trustees, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.


 Changes in Colorado Law Provides Benefit to Landowners Wanting to Protect the Conservation and Agricultural Values of the Their Properties

Today, Colorado Senate Bill 206 was signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper. This new law changes the current Colorado Conservation Easement Tax Credit program by increasing the potential tax credit for landowners.

The Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas supported this legislation because it encourages the protection of additional lands in the State that are important for their natural and water resources, scenic vistas, outdoor recreation, or agricultural significance. The Land Trust’s Executive Director, Andrew Mackie states: “This is a major step forward for conservation in Colorado. Working in partnership we can maintain lands in agriculture and wildlife habitat. We work with many private landowners who protect the conservation values of the property for the greater public good and they deserve to see a realistic benefit for this perpetual protection”.

The new law will increase the credit to 75% of the first $100,000 of the fair market value of the conservation easement and 50% of the fair market value above that amount. This is an additional $25,000, over 2014 levels, in tax credits to landowners who donate a conservation easement to a certified entity, such as the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas. The tax credit can be sold for cash or utilized by the landowner for their tax purposes. In addition, the new law raises the individual tax credit cap from $375,000 to $1.5 million. The increased cap will help large landowners, such as ranchers, protect the agricultural and conservation values of their properties.

The Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas is ready to assist landowners who are considering a conservation easement for their property. Contact the Land Trust’s Conservation Director, Lucy Waldo at 970-901-1816 or lucywaldo@ltua.org. The law is retroactive to January 1, 2015, so now is a perfect time to start thinking about the conservation options and expanded tax credits available to landowners.


Boxcar Ranch Conservation Easement

On Friday, October 3, 2014 the Land Trust completed a conservation easement on the 90-acre Boxcar Ranch in Chaffee County. This Ranch is on the Arkansas River and surrounded on three sides by public lands. In addition, the conservation easement ties shares in the New Salida Ditch to this property, therefore, the water can’t be sold off and moved to the Front Range. Some of the conservation values include: irrigated pasture, protection of the riparian corridor along the Arkansas River, habitat for Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, buffering of public lands, and protection of the scenic vista from the Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway.

We gratefully acknowledge the contribution and commitment made by the property owner of Boxcar Ranch and her desire to see this property remain in its agricultural and natural state. Funding for the project was provided by Great Outdoors Colorado, Gates Family Foundation, National Scenic Byway Program, Chaffee County, and the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society.

DSC_0074

Boxcar Ranch for Wall photo


Headwaters Ranch project in Lake County

Headwaters Ranch Conservation Easement

Headwaters Ranch Conservation Easement

February 27, 2014 – The Land Trust in partnership with the Trust for Public Land closed on the second phase of the Headwaters Ranch project in Lake County. This second phase protects 200-acres in addition to the 175-acres we protected last year. The property is northeast of Leadville, CO along the East Fork of the Arkansas River. Headwaters Ranch is aptly named as the Arkansas River begins just above this property. We gratefully recognize the efforts of the landowners in protecting this beautiful stretch of River with its associated beaver ponds, willow wetlands, wet meadows, and spruce/fir forest. The property is also along the Top of the Rockies Byway with the conservation easement protecting the scenic view shed from this designated roadway.

The Headwaters Ranch is a high priority for the Lake County Open Space Initiative (LCOSI). The Land Trust is a member of LCOSI and started working on this property with TPL several years ago. “We are pleased to help achieve the goals of LCOSI and protect such a tremendous property” stated Land Trust Executive Director Andrew Mackie. This section of the Arkansas is home to trout, songbirds, grouse, elk, bear, lynx, and a variety of small mammals. In addition, the Land Trust will work with the property owners in opening up sections of the Arkansas River to public fishing.


 

Land Trust completes its first conservation easement as part of our Poncha Pass Initiative

Campbell 1October 3, 2013 – The Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas now holds a 660-acre conservation easement on Poncha Pass, straddling both Chaffee and Saguache Counties. We want to recognize and thank the family who own the property.

Their vision in protecting this ranch will be a lasting benefit for all the residents of Colorado. In addition, we want to thank our partners: The Trust for Public Land, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

The Land Trust identified Poncha Pass as a priority in 2010. This pass connecting the Upper Arkansas and San Luis Valleys is a vital link for wildlife populations. The high mountain pass acts as a wildlife corridor between the Sangre de Cristo and Sawatch mountain ranges. Many different species utilize this region, including: elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, black bear, mountain lion, and lynx.

The Poncha Pass area also has a long ranching history. It is used for summer pasture and was host to numerous cattle drives moving stock between the two valleys.

The Land Trust is working to keep this ranching heritage alive by making sure there will be room for livestock and wildlife for many years to come.

DSC_0061


Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas Completes Three Conservation Easements

Upper Arkansas Valley – June 22, 2011 – The Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas announces the completion of three conservation easements totaling 343 acres. Each conservation easement represents months of work on behalf of the Land Trust and the corresponding landowner. In another first for us, we completed a conservation easement in each of three counties: Lake, Chaffee, and Fremont. Each conservation easement has “public benefit” by permanently protecting wildlife habitat, working agricultural land, and scenic vistas. Hayden Mellsop, Chair of the Land Trust Board, stated “These three conservation easements are another significant step forward for the Land Trust and will help keep our ranching tradition and protect key wetlands and wildlife habitat”.

A conservation easement is a legal agreement that a landowner voluntarily enters into with a land trust that permanently limits the use of the land in order to protect certain conservation values. All three conservation easements were donated by the landowners making each donation eligible for certain Federal and State tax benefits. However, all the property remains in private ownership and the owners continue to pay property tax.

The Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas is certified by the State of Colorado to hold conservation easements. The Land Trust also has certain criteria that must be met before the organization will accept a conservation easement on a property. Not all properties qualify, only those that have certain conservation values, such as important wildlife habitat or working agricultural lands. It is also the responsibility of the Land Trust to monitor and enforce the conservation easement in perpetuity. This is a major responsibility and takes a significant amount of time and resources. Any landowner interested in finding out more about conservation easements should contact the Land Trust Executive Director, Andrew Mackie at 719-539-7700 or andrewjmackie@ltua.org.

The first conservation easement is southeast of Leadville in Lake County. This 160 acre ranch is set among the Mosquito Mountains. Overall the property is situated from 10,670 feet to 10,890 feet. Bisecting the property is Empire Gulch. This creek meanders through a series of beaver dams creating a mosaic of wetlands important to many species of wildlife. In addition, several kettle ponds are found on the property. A total of 32% of the Ranch is in wetlands and is now protected. Much of the remaining property is in lodgepole pine and aspen. Surrounding the ranch on three sides are lands open to the public, composed of Paddock State Wildlife Area and San Isabel National Forest.

This ranch is routinely used by a herd of 300 elk. Also, black bear, mountain lion, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, mule deer, lynx, and an occasional moose use the property. The wetlands are key habitats for breeding songbirds and amphibians. A section of the property has been retained for cattle grazing and another small area is reserved for local food production.

The second conservation easement is in Chaffee County surrounded by San Isabel National Forest near Raspberry Gulch. This 108 acre easement helps to reduce development potential within San Isabel National Forest. The property is mostly mixed conifer forest with areas of ponderosa pine and aspen. An intermittent stream runs along the boundary providing additional plant diversity and wildlife habitat. Grasses and forbs provide food for elk and mule deer.

Another interesting element of this conservation easement is the protection of a historic miner’s cabin on the property. This structure and some other foundations provide a glimpse back into the past. Cattle grazing will also continue as a use on the property.

The third conservation easement is a 75 acre parcel in Howard, Colorado. This property is used for summer cattle and horse pasture and has associated water rights that are now tied with the land. Most of the property is in pasture with scattered piñon pines and Rocky Mountain juniper. On side of the property contains a small canyon that wildlife uses for movement between the Arkansas River and Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. These areas often have a number of unique plants associated with them. In addition to livestock, elk and mule deer use the pasture. Also, a part of the conservation easement abuts Bureau of Land Management property.

The Land Trust wishes to thank all three land owners for their vision and dedication to completing these conservation easements. Their commitment to seeking long-term protection for important agricultural and natural resources on the properties is inspiring.


LTUA and City of Salida protect land in the Arkansas Hills

On February 10, 2010 the City of Salida completed a purchase of 26.8 acres of vacant land from the Everett Land and Cattle Company. Following the purchase, the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas placed a conservation easement on the parcel to forever protect the land from further development. The City of Salida and the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas had worked on protecting this land for over a year so that it could be added to the existing City of Salida Open Space. The purchase was made possible with funds from Great Outdoors Colorado.

This purchase and the conservation easement will help ensure access to surrounding land owned by the City of Salida and the Bureau of Land Management. It will also protect the scenic backdrop of downtown Salida.

According to Dara MacDonald, Salida Community Development Director, “Many members of the community, recreation organizations, local government, and the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas contributed to completion of this purchase”. Salida Mountain Trail members Kent and Mary Ann Davidson drafted the grant application to Great Outdoors Colorado; they were assisted by Donna Rhoads of Salida-area Parks, Open Space and Trails (SPOT) and City of Salida staff. Financial contributors included: Chaffee County, SPOT, Quiet Use Coalition, Salida Mountain Trails, Chaffee County Running Club, City of Salida, and Mary Roberts. The Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas contributed significant resources to the project by drafting the base line documentation for the conservation easement, reducing many of their fees to the City of Salida, and allocating staff resources to assist in the effort.

The property will be left in a natural state providing habitat for wildlife. According to the conservation easement public trails for non-motorized use can be constructed on the property. The Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas will work cooperatively with the City of Salida on the placement of trails and the long-term management of the property.


Chubb Park Ranch Protected

Chaffee County, CO, 8/11/2009 — The Trust for Public Land (TPL), working in partnership with the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas (LTUA), lottery funded Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW), and Chaffee County, has succeeded in permanently protecting the Chubb Park Ranch, a high mountain meadow in beautiful central Colorado.

The 507-acre holding is part of the Cogan Ranch, and the Cogan family has been in ranching in Chaffee County since 1889. In recent years, the family has watched as Chaffee County, with its magnificent mountain scenery, world-renowned whitewater rafting, and welcoming community, has grown in popularity as a tourist destination and location for second homes. Although property prices have stabilized, the boom years have left long-term residents like the Cogans facing land and inheritance taxes that their ranching operations cannot support.

“Our land would be taxed unfairly for an incredible amount as if it would be subdivided. How do you pay taxes on that?” says Joe Cogan. “It would break my children. They’d have to sell at least half the ranch.”

But selling could jeopardize production on the rest of Cogan’s land. It would also threaten public access to the property’s prime hunting grounds – something Cogan has granted year after year. So the Cogans found another solution: conservation easements. Working with DOW, GOCO, LTUA and TPL the family mapped out the details of a conservation easement that not only puts the land under permanent protection, it also gives them the financial resources they need to help ensure that their children and grandchildren will be able to continue to work the ranch.

“Working with Joe to keep his land in the family and in ranching has been very rewarding,” says The Trust for Public Land Project Manager, Wade Shelton. “And now with this signature project complete, TPL hopes to expand our work in Chaffee County.”

TPL secured funding to purchase the conservation easement from Chaffee County, DOW and GOCO and managed the transaction to make sure that the final outcome would meet the needs of everyone involved – particularly the Cogan Family. The DOW also acquired a perpetual hunting access easement from the Cogans, ensuring that the property will be available for hunting for future generations. Most conservation easement projects do not include public access, which illustrates the extent of the Cogans’ generosity. The conservation easement will be co-held by LTUA and DOW, who will work together as long-term stewards of the easement, with DOW managing public hunting access to the land, making it a historic partnership between DOW and a local land trust.

“One of the great things about this project is that not only does it preserve the dramatic views off Trout Creek Pass and provide hunting opportunities for big game hunters, but that all of the funding came from Habitat Stamp Fees and Lottery Ticket sales,” says Frosty Roe, President of the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas. “We’re very fortunate that we live in a state where you can complete projects like this without relying on taxpayer dollars.”

Landowners like Cogan open up local conservation opportunities, as residents are more likely to consider an easement if a neighbor had a good experience. And every easement strengthens the region’s rural character.

“The Cogan property is exactly the type of land we love protecting,” says Andrew Mackie, executive director of the LTUA, the local organization that will manage the conservation easement. “We’re excited to have this crucial property protected.”

“The valley is breathtaking, but it hasn’t become a resort community,” continues Shelton. “These projects help maintain balance. People can still live here without being incredibly wealthy.” Cogan’s view is simpler still. “Now I don’t have to look at a damn subdivision at the foot of Buffalo Peaks.”

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come