Steamboat Springs The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife’s decade-long goal to protect the Bears Ears elk herd in Northwest Colorado with the preservation of habitat on a macro scale took another big step forward this week when it joined the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Great Outdoors Colorado to place a conservation easement on another 8,658 acres of Wolf Mountain Ranch about 20 miles west of Steamboat Springs.
Wolf Mountain Ranch spokesman Brent Romick confirmed Monday that the latest easement brings to 16,127 the number of conserved acres on the broad-shouldered mountain about five miles east of Hayden and north of U.S. Highway 40.
Romick and Colorado Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins, in Steamboat Springs, agreed that creating a linked network of conserved wildlife habitat is the focus of the ongoing efforts on and around Wolf Mountain.
“This is the biggest of the easements on Wolf Mountain and provides a lot of continuity,” Romick said. "That’s really our goal.”
Haskins said that Colorado Parks and Wildlife reinforced its goal of conserving 66,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat in the area that is beneficial for a variety of species by committing a large share of annual budgets to the goal.
"The whole idea is putting together contiguous parcels on what we call a landscape scale," Haskins said Monday.
He added that when combined with a recently closed easement at Smith Rancho next door to Wolf Mountain and others in the area, there will be almost 26,000 acres of conserved habitat that is crucial to the elk herd.
Elk Foundation President and CEO David Allen said the latest easement is emblematic of the importance of the local elk herd.
“The ranch is at the epicenter of the Bears Ears herd, one of the largest herds in the world,” Allen was quoted as saying in a prepared statement. “This shows our continuing commitment to elk and elk country in Northern Colorado as RMEF now holds five conservation easements within a 50-mile radius of Wolf Mountain.”
Romick said the latest easement includes some of the most desirable Alpine terrain high up on the 9,145-foot mountain. GOCo also is contributing lottery proceeds to the newest Wolf Mountain easement.
Most recently, Routt County taxpayers pitched in through the longstanding Purchase of Development Rights program to help conserve 1,330 acres on Wolf Mountain in April 2011. The PDR fund contributed to the deal $218,000 to match funds from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and value donated by Wolf Mountain. The Elk Foundation also holds that easement.
Wolf Mountain is a working cattle operation that participates in Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Ranching for Wildlife program. The ranch is a calving ground, and on any given day, 300 to 2,000 elk might occupy the ranch. Public hunters access Wolf Mountain through Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Ranching for Wildlife program.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com