Blakeslee to take over conservancy job

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— Geoff Blakeslee has balanced ranching and conservation for 35 years, including almost 10 years as ranch manager of the Carpenter Ranch near Hayden.

Although ranching has kept him "challenged and interested," he is excited to take on a job as Yampa River project director for The Nature Conservancy, which owns the Carpenter Ranch.

"I'll have the opportunity to continue with conservation work, collaborating with the agricultural community and doing conservation from a different perspective," he said.

Blakeslee will replace Project Director Ann Oliver, who is leaving in November to start a new program for The Nature Conservancy in Durango.

Geoff and Betsy Blakeslee have lived on the Carpenter Ranch since 1997, managing its cattle operation and educational programs. They moved there not long after The Nature Conservancy bought the historic property from the Carpenter family.

The 900-acre property is habitat for diverse species of plants, birds and wildlife, and it serves as a community education resource and a model for the compatibility of agriculture and natural systems.

The Nature Conservancy also owns the Yampa River Preserve, about 500 acres mostly across from the ranch and south of U.S. Highway 40 along the river. The preserve is open to the public during the day.

As project director, Geoff Blakeslee will use science to advocate for protection of plants, animals and natural systems. He will continue Oliver's work, collaborating with local governments, public agencies, land trusts and other groups.

"He has a real skill for listening to people and getting to know them," Oliver said. "I think that's really valuable."

The Blakeslees will continue to live on the ranch, though Geoff will be based at an office at Colorado Mountain College.

The Blakeslees plan to lease the ranch's pastures to a local rancher. They will request proposals, and the review process will ensure the lessee is in tune with the ranch's values, Blakeslee said.

He hopes to have a lessee by spring.

All other aspects of the ranch, including research, programs and outreach, will stay the same, he said.

Oliver's departure will end an eight-year career with The Nature Conservancy in Routt County. She started work as a land steward and replaced Mike Tetr--eault as project dir--ector in 1998.

She will open a similar office in Durango and initially will work to provide useful biological data to public land managers.

"There's a lot of public land down there and rare plants and rare species not found in large numbers in other parts of the world," she said.

Oliver will take with her experience of working with people in Hayden, Steamboat and other communities.

"This community in the Yampa Valley has really showed its commitment to conservation. ... It's been a pleasure to be a part of that," she said.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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