The Nature Conservancy and the Colorado Division of Wildlife completed the second phase of easements on the Wolf Mountain Ranch. These conservation easements will conserve an additional 2,711 acres of this biologically significant landscape.
Together with Phase 1, completed in 2005, 4,500 acres of the ranch’s cottonwood forest, hay meadows, and sagebrush hills have been conserved. The conservation easement will support habitat for several at-risk species, including the Greater sage grouse and Sharp-tailed grouse.
In fact, Wolf Mountain Ranch is located in the heart of the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse population that is being used to reestablish these grouse in their historic Colorado range. The landscape also provides key winter range for the second largest elk herd in the state.
"This property is not only a working cattle ranch, the landowner has taken great steps to improve wildlife habitat at every turn," said Jim Haskins, Area Wildlife Manager for the Division of Wildlife. "Beyond sharp-tailed grouse and Greater sage grouse, this is important transition range for deer and elk, so getting these protections in place is a big win for wildlife."
A continuation of a GOCO funded project begun in 2005, “this effort brings together the best of everything – locally and regionally,” said Charles Bedford, Director of The Nature Conservancy of Colorado. “It is a working ranch capturing the full ecological transition from the riparian to the subalpine forest. We are pleased that this landscape will remain intact for future generations to enjoy.”
This easement is made possible through funding from the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Routt County Purchase of Development Rights Program and a generous donation of value from the landowner. The Division of Wildlife is contributing $1.58 million to the project, Routt County is providing $426,000 and the landowner is donating 50% of the conservation easement value.
Wolf Mountain Ranch is adjacent to The Nature Conservancy’s Carpenter Ranch and is part of the Yampa River corridor, an important ecological, scenic and ranching landscape. The Yampa River Valley has become a nationally-known model of protecting ranch land and open space, and the ecological values that are critical to wildlife.More than 1,500 people enjoy the Carpenter Ranch every year through school programs, adult education programs, birding trips, community group meetings and statewide group meetings.
Future management plans will target sage brush shrublands to encourage the overall cover that the Greater sage grouse prefer for their nesting habitat. Cattle grazing will continue.
“This is a tremendous conservation opportunity, and I am pleased that The Division of Wildlife and Routt County had the vision and dedication to make this happen," said Geoff Blakeslee, Yampa River Project Director for The Nature Conservancy. “Without this partnership, we would not have been able to conserve these special natural areas for future generations of Coloradoans to enjoy.”
The Colorado Division of Wildlife is the state agency responsible for managing wildlife and its habitat, as well as providing wildlife related recreation. The Division is funded through hunting and fishing license fees, federal grants and Colorado Lottery proceeds through Great Outdoors Colorado.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.