The Nature Conservancy today announced the protection of 266 acres of valuable riparian areas, irrigated meadowland and sage uplands in the Little Snake River Valley along the Colorado border near Savery, Wyoming. This joint land conservation venture is the first step toward safeguarding the entire 1561-acre Ladder Ranch. A conservation easement will allow the landowners to continue traditional agricultural practices and recreational uses, and conserve key wildlife habitat.
The Ladder Ranch sits in the shadow of Battle Mountain with a view overlooking Squaw Mountain, Sheep Mountain, Battle Creek and the Little Snake River. The Salisbury/O'Toole family has raised cattle, sheep and horses in the Snake River Valley for more than 120 years. Today, George Salisbury, 88, still lives and works on the ranch along with his daughter and her husband, Sharon and Pat O’Toole, and their daughter Meghan Lally, husband Brian, and their young family. Daughter Bridget O’Toole and husband Chris Abel and son Eamon and wife Megan also are active on the ranch.
“We are really pleased for this partnership that protects our ranchland. This easement ensures that we can continue to raise cattle, sheep and horses, irrigate our haylands and protect valuable wildlife habitat on Battle Creek,” said Sharon O’Toole. “The easement also adds to our efforts to enhance the fishery and recreational opportunities. Protecting these values and preserving the open spaces of the Little Snake River Valley is critically important. The Nature Conservancy is a great partner and we look forward to continuing to work together.”
With the Steamboat Springs resort community sitting just 55 miles away and with growing pressure to subdivide open space, wildlife habitat and productive agricultural lands are caught in the crosshairs. Meanwhile, energy development west, north and south of the Little Snake River Valley edges ever closer and poses another risk.
“The Little Snake River Valley is one of the few remaining intact river valleys in the West that has not experienced rampant development,” said Steve Jester, Southwest Wyoming program director for The Nature Conservancy. “The Conservancy is excited to have had the opportunity to work with the family and very grateful for the wide spectrum of conservation organizations and other supporters who made this project possible”
The Ladder Ranch—which contains five ponds and 250 acres of wetlands—safeguards habitat that potentially supports 50 Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) as identified by Wyoming’s statewide wildlife action plan, Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Surrounding lands support the largest and most robust population of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse found anywhere in the central Rockies.
Several partners have jumped into the effort, including the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Green River Valley Land Trust, Little Snake River Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Wyoming Wildlife Trust Fund and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, all committing funding to complete the project’s two phases. Other partners lending support include Audubon Wyoming, the Mule Deer Foundation, and Trout Unlimited.
In addition, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) is completing conservation easements on adjacent lands and has pledged its commitment to helping protect the Upper Little Snake River watershed.
“CCALT is excited to be a part of the landowner-driven conservation efforts in the Little Snake River Valley along the Colorado-Wyoming border,” said Chris West, executive director of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust. “The Little Snake is a rare opportunity to protect an intact landscape and its historic agricultural heritage. The protection of the Ladder Ranch is an important step to ensuring that the productive agricultural lands and open spaces of the Little Snake River Valley that make both Colorado and Wyoming special remain intact for future generations.”
Projects such as the Ladder Ranch are an important for protecting Wyoming’s wildlife and way of life for future generations.
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.