Brent Romick, manager at Wolf Mountain Ranch, talks about the third phase of conservation easements just established at the ranch. The ranch has more than 6,100 acres in conservation easements.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Brent Romick, manager at Wolf Mountain Ranch, talks about the third phase of conservation easements just established at the ranch. The ranch has more than 6,100 acres in conservation easements.

1,613 acres to be conserved

Wolf Mountain Ranch easement aided by $300K in county funds

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Pilot & Today staff

— A group of partners have joined forces to conserve more than 1,600 acres of working agriculture land and critical environmental habitat in West Routt County.

Aided by funds from the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Routt County's Purchase of Development Rights program, the land on Wolf Mountain Ranch will be placed under a conservation easement and permanently precluded from development. The land is near The Nature Conservancy's Carpenter Ranch, north of U.S. Highway 40 near Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

"It's thrilling, the statement it makes for Routt County - especially coming into Steamboat from the airport," said Claire Sollars, a member of the PDR advisory board.

The easement will support habitat for several at-risk species, including Columbia sharp-tailed grouse. It also is a key winter range for the second largest elk herd in the state. The Colorado Division of Wildlife is contributing more than $900,000 to the project.

"This property is not only a working cattle ranch, the landowner has taken great steps to improve wildlife habitat at every turn," DOW Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins said in a news release. "Beyond sharp-tailed grouse, this is important transition range for deer and elk, so getting these protections in place is a big win for wildlife."

The county PDR program is contributing more than $300,000. The program is funded by a 1.5-mill property tax approved in 2006, nine years after the program first was approved for a 10-year period. The 2006 renewal is good for 20 years.

"This is a tremendous conservation opportunity, and I am pleased that the Division of Wildlife and Routt County had the vision and dedication to make this happen," Geoff Blakeslee, Yampa River project director for The Nature Conservancy, said in a news release. "Without this partnership, we would not have been able to conserve these special natural areas for future generations of Coloradans to enjoy."

This most current conservation easement on Wolf Mountain Ranch joins two previous ones. Combined, the projects total more than 6,100 acres.

"There's a value in clustering these to some extent," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said.

When a landowner donates a conservation easement, they are permanently protecting the land from development. This reduces the value of the restricted land, but landowners' compensation isn't just the knowledge that the land will never be turned into a subdivision or shopping mall. There are significant tax breaks associated with the move, sometimes worth millions depending on the details of the easement.

Also, some entities - such as the PDR program - will compensate landowners for the land-value loss to encourage more people to enter into conservation easements.

The property's owners are contributing about 50 percent of the easement's value, which means they are not being reimbursed for about 50 percent of the property value lost by placing it in a conservation easement.

"It's phenomenal the contribution this particular owner has made," Sollars said.

Comments

Terry Noble 5 years, 3 months ago

It looks really good as related in the article. I too wonder what consessions were made to do this since we know it isn't likely as good as it was written to look like. Money talks bull walks is the rule.

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housepoor 5 years, 3 months ago

Are we sure this easement in permanent? They usually have a 20 year sunset?

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peevla 5 years, 3 months ago

Great.
The landowner should be held in the highest regard.
It is important to note if development rights have been transferred. If they have, then reportage should inform citizens as to who has acquired such rights. Who are the partners who have enabled this transaction and what concessions have they received from the County? In the interest of transparency, what are the facts? Mr Editor?

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housepoor 5 years, 3 months ago

Conserved for who??? Not the residents of Routt County!!! They keep their ranch, do not provide public acces and get a few million in tax dollars as well as a huge write off. Why not spend this money and actually aquire land? I also wonder how the value of the eeasement was determined, most likely at 0708 prices. Good deal if you can get it.

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seeuski 5 years, 3 months ago

Why don't you guys call Brent Romick on the phone? I am sure he won't mind letting you know the details since it is all public record if you know where to look. These easements are very common. Think about the fact that most of these huge acreages have been in family trusts for decades way before our tax and spend habits have caused the property taxes on raw land to explode and being non income producing land a burden no one wants. So housepoor wants the government to spend our tax money owning land that needs to be maintained. Iron horse II. Nice. Sounds familiar, GM, BofA etc. A FEMA camp coming to a town near you.

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