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Posted on: February 14, 2020

San Miguel County Welcomes New Land Conservation Easement

Old-growth aspens and ponderosa pine trees interspersed with wildflowers



(SAN MIGUEL COUNTY CO 2-3-20) –With the creation of a 1,345-acre land conservation easement in cooperation with a local landowner and the Montezuma Land Conservancy, San Miguel County will preserve wilderness and maintain habitat for wildlife.

"San Miguel County has a strong history of preserving wildlife habitat, working ranches, scenic vistas, and historic locations and structures," said San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper. "We are proud to partner with the Montezuma Land Conservancy to continue that tradition and preserve this special landscape."

With the new easement in place, 20 home sites will be retired in favor of maintaining critical ecosystems, San Miguel County Parks & Open Space Director Janet Kask said. “The property is a beautiful composition of old growth ponderosa pine and aspen groves with stands of scrub oak and sage intermixed at varying elevations,” she said. “There are also various water sources for wildlife including springs and seeps, wetland type areas, and seven ponds, which have been installed by the landowner.”

Aspens with fall foliage surround a pondIn addition to a year-round herd of 200 to 300 elk, the acreage known as Elk Springs Ranch provides summer and winter range for elk and is adjacent to their winter concentration grounds and a migration corridor. The acreage includes habitat for mule deer. The landowner has also observed badgers, Albert’s squirrels, black bears, Merriam’s wild turkeys, lynx, mountain lions, bobcats, porcupines, coyotes, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, Western Tanager birds, Mountain bluebirds, Western bluebirds, Great Horned owls, Yellow-rumped warblers, Meadowlarks and three varieties of Hummingbirds on the property, Kask said.

According to mapping, the entire parcel is identified as historic Gunnison Sage Grouse habitat and the southern end of the parcel, totaling 272 acres, is identified as GuSG production area range.  The landowner is interested in continuing to manage for habitat for grouse and interested in protecting critical ecosystems for successful sage grouse populations.  Colorado Parks & Wildlife has identified the presence of Dusky Grouse on the property.

There is a historic element to this property as well.  The historic Barlow Homestead was acquired by the landowner through a land trade with the United States Forest Service, and a cultural resource inventory report has been prepared for the site.

Any time that acreage can be set aside for wildlife habitat, the entire community benefits, Montezuma Land Conservancy Executive Director Travis Custer said.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to protect some critical wildlife habitat on the Uncompahgre Plateau,” he said, noting that the owner of the land is focused on conservation. “We’re very excited,” Custer said. “This is a great way to start the year…I encourage more local landowners to reach out to your local land trust.”

San Miguel County will contribute Land Heritage Program funds in the amount of $52,500 to the Montezuma Land Conservancy, to be matched by the landowner’s cash contributions totaling $88,250. The land has a donated conservation land value estimated at $1,345,000 and is located off Highway 62 between Placerville and Ridgway on Iron Springs Mesa. Of the total 1,345 acres, 1,271 are in San Miguel County and 74 in Montrose County.

For more information, please contact San Miguel County Parks & Open Space at 970-369-5469.

Old-growth aspens and ponderosa pine trees interspersed with wildflowers

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