Community Agriculture Alliance: Conservation easements in Routt County: What they are and how they benefit you
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Northwest Colorado and Routt County in particular are home to thousands of acres of conserved land. The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust and our Yampa Valley Conservation Partnership are responsible for the conservation of more than 70,000 of those acres. With summer approaching, increased time outdoors and more opportunities to eat local products and produce, CCALT wanted to provide more information on what our conservation work means and how it impacts you.
What is a conservation easement?
Conservation easements are tools utilized by CCALT to conserve land across the state. Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between a landowner and a qualified organization (like CCALT) that restrict development of a property. Conservation easements are permanent and run with the land despite any changes in ownership. No two conservation easements are alike, and each is tailored to a specific piece of land and the conservation values of its owner.
In general, conservation easements limit development to protect certain resources in perpetuity, such as open space, wildlife habitat, agricultural use, scenic vistas and historic landmarks. Easements also encourage traditional activities such as farming, grazing, hunting, fishing and recreation on the land. CCALT’s conservation easements tie water resources to the land, ensuring the water will always be available to support riparian habitat, wildlife and agriculture.
What happens after a property is conserved?
Once a property is conserved using a conservation easement, CCALT takes on a perpetual obligation to make sure the terms of the conservation easement are being upheld. We call this aspect of our conservation work “stewardship.” Each year, CCALT staff spend a large portion of our spring and summer visiting every CCALT conserved property — that’s more than 445 ranches (and counting) visited every year.
Stewardship not only helps CCALT check on the land, it also provides an opportunity for the land trust to connect with landowners. Landowners are CCALT’s partners in conservation, and without their support, conservation easements wouldn’t be successful. Establishing a positive working relationship with landowners helps to ensure that the landowners understand the terms and restrictions contained in their conservation easement and provides an opportunity to discuss solutions to potential management concerns.
How does conservation benefit you?
Conservation easements benefit our communities in many ways. Conservation easements support rural communities in particular by helping to stabilize agricultural economies and, in places like Routt County, easements offer a way for communities to preserve the natural resources, open spaces, scenic landscapes and wildlife habitat that draw in recreation and tourism dollars.
As the weather warms, and we begin to access the outdoors more, our team hopes you’ll take note of the conserved properties around you. Do you enjoy a conserved view on your commute to work? Recreate on a conserved property? Or eat locally produced beef from a conserved ranch? No matter how you connect with the land around you or with CCALT’s work, we hope you appreciate it.
To learn more about CCALT and our conservation work across Colorado, visit ccalt.org.
Jayne Thompson, director of external relations, CO Cattlemen’s Ag Land Trust.
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