The uniquely designed Bank Barn was built at the Rehder Ranch in 1920. Routt County commissioners added Rehder Ranch to the Routt County Register of Historic Places on Tuesday.

Photo by Matt Stensland

The uniquely designed Bank Barn was built at the Rehder Ranch in 1920. Routt County commissioners added Rehder Ranch to the Routt County Register of Historic Places on Tuesday.

Routt County OKs conservation parcels

$6.1 million will purchase development rights on 9,400 acres

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The Routt County Board of Com­missioners gave preliminary also added the Rehder Ranch east of Lake Catamount to the Routt County Register of Historic Places. The ranch, which includes five buildings, is deeded to the Yampa Valley Land Trust. The Rehder family came to the Yampa Valley in 1902, and its members occupied the ranch on Harrison Creek for 90 years from 1914 until 2004.

— Routt County’s purchase of development rights program is poised to increase its total conserved acreage by 68 percent in the next 11 months after the Routt County Board of Commissioners acted Tuesday to earmark $6.1 million in dedicated conservation tax dollars to conserve 10 rural Routt County land parcels.

In aggregate, they represent 9,400 acres with agricultural, wildlife or scenic values that would be withheld from development in the future.

The PDR process works by providing voter-approved tax dollars as an incentive to landowners, often ranch families, to enter into a conservation easement that sets the land aside from development in perpetutity. The property owners donate a substantial portion of the value of the easement determined by appraisal.

“It’s attractive to the landowners because it provides for them financially while allowing them to continue to work the land,” Ron Roundtree said. He is chairman of the Routt County PDR Citizen’s Advisory Board.

Commissioner Doug Monger said the property owners make a substantial contribution to the easements.

“They’ve contributed value that diminishes their property value and can never be recovered,” he said.

In addition to 10 new projects, the commissioners agreed to extend three previous projects held over from 2009, bringing the total number of pending acres to more than 11,000. That compares with 16,235 acres that have been conserved through the program in the preceding 13 years.

The deals don’t have to close until May 12, 2011. Because they are contracts still in negotiation, the county is withholding the details of the properties.

The PDR program is funded by a 1.5 mill property tax reapproved in 2006, nine years after the program was originally approved for a 10-year period. The 2006 renewal is good for 20 years.

In recent years the PDR tax has generated a little more than $2 million annually. This year, Roundtree said the program carried $4.77 million into 2010, plus a boost of $884,000 from several projects that withdrew from the process.

In a typical year, Roundtree said the PDR board considers three to five proposals.

“Certainly, the economy must have some effect on the way people think,” Roundtree said. “I think that’s certainly part of their formula. They want to make it financially viable for future generations to be on the land.”

Monger, a rancher, said it would be incorrect to assume that the recession is driving ag operators to consider PDR. He said he thinks that after more than a decade, property owners are gaining confidence in the program.

“It’s not just one thing,” he said, suggesting that some ranchers are trying to resolve issues related to estate planning.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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