The Nature Conservancy, working with the State Land Board (SLB), has selected Round River Resource Management (RRM) to steward the 49,061 acre Steels Fork Ranch (formerly the Smith Ranch) beginning March 1st, to help ensure the ranching heritage of the community while managing the land for its livestock and natural values.Primary goals for the ranch are to maintain a sustainable landscape for people and nature. “After a rigorous 4 month selection process, I am certain that Round River’s expertise will help nourish the land as well as contribute to the community,” said Colorado State Director Charles Bedford.
Under RRM’s leadership, the ranch will maintain the land as a cattle operation, aiding the local economy and continuing the longstanding ranching values of the eastern plains.
Round River Resource Management is a partnership between longtime local ranchers Louis Martin and Frasier Farms. After more than sixty years of ranching in eastern Colorado, the Frasier family has been recognized for their twenty-five years of environmental stewardship by the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. After 15 years with Texas A&M University and with over 35 years in ranching operations, Louis Martin is poised to help lead the educational and outreach opportunities of the Steels Fork Ranch within the community. The partnership will focus on managing the agricultural operations of the Steels Fork Ranch using holistic principles in a sustainable manner.Martin, his wife Cathy and their two daughters will reside on the ranch.
Using well-developed environmental stewardship practices, RRM will help manage, restore and protect the watersheds, wetlands, playa lakes and prairie grasses that are vital habitat for many key prairie species. These important landscapes provide breeding grounds, migratory stopovers and foraging opportunities for animals like pronghorn, the mountain plover, the burrowing owl, ferruginous hawks, leopard frogs, and native fish.
Working together with the Conservancy and SLB, future stewardship practices may include increasing grassland diversity for cattle and wildlife while protecting the soil’s fertility, restoring wetlands and riparian areas through managed grazing, and removing tamarisk. Other activities on the ranch might include research as well as recreational and educational opportunities, like trail rides and student intern positions, as well as community outreach. “We’re very excited to work with RRM towards fostering high biodiversity on the ranch,” said Frogard Ryan, Central Front Range Grasslands Project Director for The Nature Conservancy, “I look forward to a bright future where the sustainable lands of the Steels Fork Ranch help propel a healthy economy for the community and assure that the natural heritage of Lincoln County is retained for our children.With the knowledge and experience of RRM and our other partners, I have every confidence that the ranch is in good hands.”
“Livestock production is an important and traditional element of the plains landscape,” said Mark Frasier of RRM, “we view ecology and economics as equal and compatible parts of a sustainable ranch, and we are pleased to have the opportunity to work with this unique and special place.”
The Steels Fork Ranch is the Eastern anchor in the Peak to Prairie project, an ambitious effort being undertaken by Colorado Open Lands and The Nature Conservancy, with support and participation of numerous local and state agencies and organizations, to conserve and link a landscape stretching from Cheyenne Mountain across the plains of eastern Colorado. The vision is to conserve this large intact prairie landscape, maintain agricultural uses and keep historic ranches intact while also conserving critical plant and animal habitat and providing opportunities for recreational access.
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.