A ranch established in 1881 in the Uncompahgre River Valley has been protected in perpetuity through a land easement secured by the Colorado West Land Trust.
The land easement, which conserves 242 acres between Ridgway and Ouray, was donated by landowners Gary Roberts and Barbara Parish.
“It’s important to protect our ranching heritage,” Roberts said in a news release from the land trust. “Ranchers have a hard time finding pasture for their cattle. If we don’t conserve the ranch, who will?”
According to the news release, Roberts and his wife were concerned development would change the history of the area, leading them to purchase the land in the first place.
“We had to buy it. Multiple homes in the area wouldn’t have done much for the ranching legacy and it would have ruined the view of Mt. Abrams,” Roberts said.
Ilana Moir, the land trust’s director of conservation, told The Watch the easement will allow the property to continue serving as a ranch while maintaining the “land values we are trying to protect.”
In this case, it allows the owners to “maintain a house (that already exists on the property), and allows them to have a barn and shed and other infrastructure you might need if you have a ranch and have animals.”
However, the buildings will be restricted to certain acreage on the property, with the rest of the land preserved as a home to “native plants, mountain shrub land and forests of Douglas fir, aspen, cottonwood and ponderosa pine,” according to the news release.
This habitat also is important winter range for elk and deer, and serves as a home for migratory birds, raptors, small mammals, bear and “potentially big cats as well,” Moir said.
Rob Bleiberg, land trust executive director, said preserving lands such as the Roberts-Parish ranching property is a “precious resource for our communities.”
“Conserving a ranch like Roberts-Parish, which is along the San Juan Skyway, ensures the area’s heritage, along with the wildlife habitat and scenic views, are maintained in perpetuity,” he said.
According to Moir, there are three other conservation easements within a mile of the ranch — each protecting an important piece of the valley.
For the Roberts-Parish easement, Moir said the Telluride Foundation — a nonprofit that supports organizations in the region — provided a grant to help pay for some of the costs accrued through the process of securing the land easement.
“We greatly appreciate the foundation putting funds into something that matters for the community,” she said.
In addition to the ranching property, the land trust also conserves 22 acres of the C&R Farms orchard in Palisade and a 400-acre piece of land located adjacent to the Curecanti National Recreational area, east of Montrose.
“We are proud of what we have been able to accomplish in 2017, and we look forward to increasing the pace, quality and permanence of our work on the Western Slope,” Bleiberg said in the land trust news release.
The Colorado West Land Trust formed in November 2017, when the Montrose-based Black Canyon Regional Land Trust and the Mesa Land Trust in Grand Junction merged.
The organization secures land easements in the area between the Book Cliffs (near Grand Junction) and the San Juan Mountains, and from the Blue Mesa Reservoir to the state line (bordering Utah), Moir said.