1 Easement -- 6,300 Acres of Land Protected
6,300 acres of cherished wetlands, pine savannah, pine and mixed-conifer forests, mountain shrubland plant communities, and ranch land are now protected by conservation easement.
The precious land, located southwest of downtown Pagosa Springs, CO, offers one of Archuleta County’s most scenic view sheds. The easement protects the view corridor as well as 10 square miles of wildlife habitat and nearly seven miles of the San Juan River corridor.
The corridor hosts important permanent and migratory habitat for a number of key Colorado species. And the ranch on the property offers important summer and winter ranges for mule deer and elk, and summer range and fall concentration areas for black bear. In addition, although rare and elusive, Canada lynx — a federally threatened and state endangered species — have been seen roaming the ranch. The ranch allows for wild and domesticated species to coexist, and the property will continue to provide rangeland for approximately 200 head of Texas Longhorn cattle, 300 head of sheep, 50 head of goats and five horses.
The easement is designed to protect the view corridor, preserve ranching, wildlife and riparian habitat, all while keeping the entire 6,300-acre ranch intact for perpetuity.
Located three road miles from the town’s boundaries and called the Alpine Cascade Ranch, the easement is one of the largest in Archuleta County and could stack up as one of the largest in Colorado, according to ranch manager J.R. Ford and Southwest Land Alliance Executive Director Michael Whiting.
“In our region, this is the largest conservation easement created in the last 10 years, and it’s the largest single transaction the Southwest Land Alliance has done. Most conservation easements in the county are less than 3,000 acres. At 6,300 acres this is the second largest conservation easement recorded in Archuleta County,” Whiting said.
But beyond sheer size, the easement is notable for its preservation of 6.8 miles of the San Juan River. Within the easement, the San Juan River provides habitat for native Colorado River cutthroat trout. Alpine Cascade Corporation has demonstrated its commitment to maintaining prime fish habitat by restoring 6.5 miles of the waterway with in-stream work and re-vegetation along the once overgrazed river banks. Above the river, the riparian corridor and cottonwood canopy offer winter concentration areas for bald eagle and many avian species of local and national significance. Beyond the river banks, the ranch as a whole provides important permanent and migratory habitat for other wildlife species, including mountain lion, bobcat, badger, Merriam’s wild turkey, beaver, river otter and Lewis’ Woodpecker — a U.S. Forest Service sensitive species.
Whiting said the easement marks a major milestone for the community and his organization. “We were incredibly honored the landowner would trust us with this transaction. It says a lot about the level of trust between the landowner and the Southwest Land Alliance,” said Whiting. “This project is also a watershed for the community because it is so large and so close to town. The fact that they’re giving up tremendous development potential is huge, and the reason they’re doing it is for the love of the property.”
Ranch Manager Ford said, “We put our entire ranch in this easement and left nothing open to development. In our minds, this honors the true spirit of what a conservation easement is all about."
Photo of Alpine Cascade Ranch Conservation Easement along the San Juan River. South San Juan Mountains/Weminuche Wilderness Area and Town of Pagosa Springs pictured in the background
Photo by Bruce Andersen