South Routt ranch upstream from Stagecoach State Park conserved
Steamboat Springs — A highly-visible, 640-acre tract of agricultural land straddling the Yampa River in South Routt County will be conserved later this month upon closing of a new conservation easement held by the Yampa Valley Land Trust and facilitated with money from the county’s purchase of development rights (PDR).
Routt County commissioners voted Tuesday to approve the use of $725,000 in public tax revenues dedicated to PDR to conserve a portion of the Frank Stetson family’s Iron Springs Ranch, including two miles of the Yampa just a mile upstream from Stagecoach State Park and the reservoir of the same name. The ranch is a familiar sight to motorists and cyclists traveling Routt County Road 14 between Stagecoach and the intersection of Colorado Highway 131.
Four generations of the Stetson family have worked on the ranch since Frank Stetson’s father acquired the parcel in the 1940s. The new easement assures that the family can continue its traditional ranching practices without pressure to allow development of the land.
The Yampa in that section, upstream from major tributaries like Morrison and Service creeks, has a far different personality than the same river shows roughly 12 miles downstream in the city of Steamboat Springs. On Iron Springs Ranch, it is a meandering meadow stream where raptors, elk, moose, coyotes and songbirds take advantage of brush-covered portions of the ranch that surround 136 acres of irrigated hay meadows.
Funding for the county’s PDR program comes from 1.5 mills of voter-approved property taxes that were last renewed in 2006. The PDR program is intended to give landowners an economically attractive alternative to selling land for development by instead compensating them for the development rights they agree to put under a conservation easement. By giving up those future development rights, the owners typically donate more than half of the appraised value of the land.
The final Conservation Easement was valued at $1,680,000, which is $95,000 less than the initial estimated value of the Conservation Easement. The PDR program will be contributing $725,000 (43.2 percent), and the remainder, $955,000 (56.8 percent), being landowner contribution.
Yampa Valley Land Trust is a non-profit land conservation organization that works in partnership with willing landowners to protect rural landscapes and significant ecological resources. As well, the trust partners with communities to secure public recreation opportunities. As of 2014, it had secured more than 50,000 acres since its beginning in 1997.
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