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Posted on: July 21, 2022

Largest Land Conservation Easement in County History

 Largest Land Conservation Easement in County History

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Largest Land Conservation Easement in County History

County Parks & Open Space Land Heritage Program Contributes $65,000 to Bray Ranches Land Conservation Easement

(July 21, 2022) – San Miguel County, CO --- The San Miguel County Parks & Open Space Department, through the County’s Land Heritage Program, along with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) has approved the county’s largest land conservation easement in county history. The land conservation easement totals 9,257.09 acres, including 80 additional acres in Montrose County, and encompasses five separate ranches owned and operated by the Bray Family, including Robert Bray, his three sons, and grandchildren.

Kris Holstrom, Chair of the Board of San Miguel County Commissioners shared how “pleased San Miguel County was able to assist with this incredibly important conservation easement.  We applaud the actions of the Bray family using innovative and caring approaches to stewarding their land. The model of conservation easements and agricultural trusts helps address some of the many challenges our farmers and ranchers face. Our deep appreciation to the Brays and CCALT for making this a reality.”

The property manages large hunting, cattle, and hay operations and includes five ranches - the Taylor Ranch, the Basin Ranch, the Epperson Ranch, the Hamilton Point Ranch, and the Cone Ranch. This easement protects various qualities of the ranches including Gunnison Sage Grouse habitat, scenic vistas, wildlife corridors to other threatened species, riparian and wetland areas and more. 

"San Miguel County has a strong history of preserving working ranches, wildlife habitat, scenic vistas, and historic locations and structures,” said San Miguel County Parks & Open Space Director Janet Kask. “We are proud to partner with CCALT to continue that tradition and assist the Bray family in continuing their family's ranching legacy.”

Despite the ranch’s 110-year history, drought, unstable commodity markets, inflated input costs, and family dynamics threaten the future of Bray Ranches. Considering this reality, the Brays turned to conservation and CCALT. An ideal solution, conservation allows for the Brays to continue their agricultural operations while enabling the family to continue to transfer the ranch to the next generation while paying down debt. While preserving the conservation values of the property, the Bray Family plans to continue successful agricultural operations on their land, each of the five ranches playing a critical role in sustaining the greater operation.

“Transitioning a ranch to the next generation is one the most challenging and most rewarding things facing family ranches. With each additional family member comes shared visions and circumstances but also different ideas and hopes and dreams,” said Robert Bray in a CCALT news release. “We are trying to blend old proven ways with more modern, technological ways in the face of drought and other challenges. Leaving the land intact is the one constant. I take great pride that my sons have been raised in an environment that led them to love and appreciate the lands as much as I do and dedicate their lives to working with it. While I don’t think I can ever say the ranch is out of the woods, I feel that I have now done my part to provide the chance for the next generation.”

San Miguel County contributed $65,000 through the Parks & Open Space Land Heritage Program, which prioritizes the legacy of landscape, wildlife, agriculture, stewardship, and lifestyle. The Land Heritage Program prioritizes all that is vital to the regional economy including the protection of open space, encouragement of viable agriculture, protection of wildlife habitats, migration and riparian areas, and natural beauty.

Funding for this conservation easement was provided by the San Miguel County Parks & Open Space Department, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Transaction cost assistance was provided by the Muley Fanatic Foundation.

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