Win-Win for Conservation and Ranching

Yampa River region protected with five conservation easements


Working ranchlands and exceptional wildlife habitat are protected today, thanks to five conservation easements, totaling 9,500 acres on important ranchlands in Northwest Colorado. Routt County’s Purchase of Development Rights Program, Great Outdoors Colorado, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program of the Natural Resources Conservation Service provided funds for the completion of the easements.  A conservation easement is a tool that reduces development while protecting land as well as agriculture business. All of the easements will be held by The Nature Conservancy. 

One of the easements is on the Camilletti and Sons, Inc. property along the Yampa River. The 430-acre property is south of Milner, about ten miles west of Steamboat Springs. It encompasses a large expanse of trees and wetlands that protect the river, help prevent floods and provide healthy habitat and corridors for wildlife. The Camillettis will continue to use this land for irrigated hay production as well as pasture for their cattle operation.  The easement was funded by Routt County and the NRCS. 

With Steamboat Springs only 10 miles away, the pressure to subdivide this area is growing, which threatens ranching heritage. “When my grandparents started this ranching operation in the 1930s, they wanted nothing more than for us to continue the tradition,” says Ed Camilletti. 

Routt County also supported a conservation easement on the 620-acre Finger Rock Preserve. The property is located where the Yampa River’s Brinker and Chimney Creeks meet, south of the town of Yampa along County Highway 131. The property includes habitat that supports both the Columbian sharp-tailed and Greater sage grouse, both declining species in Colorado, as well as important wetlands.  

Additionally, The Nature Conservancy has placed three conservation easements, totaling 8,500 acres, on the Smith Rancho property located near Hayden in Northwest Colorado. Supported by Routt County PDR, Great Outdoors Colorado and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the easements protect habitat for Columbian sharp-tailed grouse and Greater sage grouse, as well as critical areas for the nation’s second largest herd of elk. Smith Rancho is one of Routt County’s oldest and largest ranches. The family has been ranching sheep and cattle since the early 1900s.  

“We’re excited about the success of these partnerships,” says Geoff Blakeslee, Yampa Valley project director for the Conservancy of Colorado. “This work is protecting important land and water that provide a great home for birds, mammals and other wildlife which are crucial to conservation in our state. “We can breathe a sigh of relief because all of these easements also prevent the threat of residential development while helping family businesses thrive.” 

To learn more about the many ways the Conservancy in Colorado is collaborating with partners to protect lands and waters, visit

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contact information

Tracey Stone
The Nature Conservancy in Colorado


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