Photo by John F. Russell
Rancher Justin Iacovetto has been busy this spring tending to cattle on the Saddleback Ranch, three miles from Milner off Routt County Road 179. On Tuesday, the Routt County Board of Commissioners approved a special-use permit for ATV tours at the ranch, which is a working cattle ranch that also hosts tourist activities for visitors to the area, with the condition that they avoid grouse leks.
Steamboat Springs The Routt County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to grant Wayne and Luanna Iacovetto, of Saddleback Ranch near Milner, a special-use permit to add ATV tours to the other ranch-based recreational activities they offer.
County Planning Director Chad Phillips told the commissioners that Danielle Domson and Jim Haskins, of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, were satisfied that a pair of sharp-tailed grouse mating leks on the ranch were sufficiently protected by conditions of the approval.
Domson said she and a biologist visited the ranch May 8 and confirmed two lightly populated leks. The closest any of the ATV trails comes to one of the leks is more than 400 yards, she said.
The new ATV tours will not begin before June 1 to protect the grouse, and the tours will end no later than 6 p.m. any given day, Phillips said.
Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said she had confidence in the Iacovetto family’s ability to operate the ATV tours in a sensitive manner given their long track record.
“They’ve conducted a successful operation with other activities for a lot of years and without complaints,” Stahoviak said.
In addition to the new ATV rides, Saddleback offers dinner sleigh rides, cattle drives, horseback riding, snowmobiling and sledding operations that are popular among summer and winter visitors.
The ranch is south of Milner on Routt County Road 179. Luanna Iacovetto told the county Planning Commission last month that her family owns nine or 10 ATVs and would like to purchase a few more.
County Planner Chris Brookshire, who worked most closely with the applicants, told the Planning Commission there would be no more than three guided tours per day and large groups would be divided into groups of no more than six machines plus a guide, with spacing between groups.
The operators will be required to carry liability insurance of no less than $1 million per occurrence.
The tours will take place on existing two-track roads, and the guides will be in control of where the group travels. Planned routes would cross Routt County roads 33 and 179. The ATVs will be quieter four-stroke engine models.
Commissioner Doug Monger asked Wayne Iacovetto for assurances that all riders would wear helmets and all machines would be equipped with functioning spark arrestors to guard against wildfire.
Wayne Iacovetto assured neighboring property owner Pat Boyer during the April 15 planning meeting that he would be willing to adjust one of the ATV turnaround areas so that it was not visible from one of his 20, 35-acre land parcels if it became an issue.
The permit is good for 10 years but can be called up for review in the event that there are complaints from neighbors related to the ATV tours.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org