The 16,000 acres of the Smith Rancho property, that are now under easement, provide critical wintering habitat for deer and elk.
Elk The 16,000 acres of the Smith Rancho property, that are now under easement, provide critical wintering habitat for deer and elk. © TNC

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The Nature Conservancy, Routt County and GOCO Protect Threatened Ranchlands and High Priority Wildlife Habitat

Routt County’s Purchase of Development Rights Program and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) will fund a conservation easement on the Smith Rancho Land & Livestock, LLC property located north of Hayden. It will be held by The Nature Conservancy. The property supports working ranchlands, exceptional wildlife habitat, and faces mounting development pressures.

The property is one of the largest tracts of private land remaining in the county. The Smiths worked with The Nature Conservancy from 2011 to 2014 to conserve over 12,000 acres of their property, and they have now decided to place an additional 4,080 acres of their ranch under easement. Acquisition of this easement is made possible by the funding assistance from the Routt County PDR program and GOCO and a very generous donation of land value from the Smiths.

“Smith Rancho is not only a stunning property, but also provides critical habitat for a multitude of native wildlife and plant species,” said Sally Ross, Northern Colorado Project Director for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado. “In addition, the property maintains a ranching heritage that is important to the local communities. This is truly an amazing conservation legacy.”

“The PDR Board is pleased to see the completion of this project and highly commends the landowners’ dedication to planning for the future,” said Claire Sollars, chair of the Routt County PDR Board. “In addition to preserving the ranching operation, their commitment ensures an important big game wildlife corridor is protected.”

The 16,000 acres of the Smith Rancho property, that are now under easement, provide critical wintering habitat for deer and elk. The property is also habitat for Columbian Sharp-tailed and Greater Sage grouse—two Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Colorado making the area a conservation priority for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The Smith family has been ranching in Routt County for over a century.

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,300 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.