Steamboat Springs North Routt County’s Fetcher family helped pioneer a new way of conserving family ranching in 1993 when it joined a group of dedicated landowners to establish the Upper Elk River Valley Compact and worked with the American Farmland Trust to protect 1,200 acres of its ranch from future development through a conservation easement.
This week, the family will put in place the final 120-acre conservation easement on a section of the ranch near Steamboat Lake known as the Hahn’s Peak Ranch. The Routt County Board of Commissioners agreed to the plans by the purchase of development rights advisory board to commit $250,000 of dedicated property taxes to the easement to be held by the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust. The Fetcher family will donate more than half of the $700,000 appraised value of the acreage that sits on a high bench overlooking Steamboat Lake.
Jay Fetcher said the earliest efforts to put North Routt ranches under conservation easements were met with some skepticism.
“We started this 20 years ago at the Clark Ranch, and people thought, ‘What in the world are you doing?’” Fetcher recalled. “Creating the Routt County Open Lands Plan was easy, but PDR was difficult.”
Routt County's purchase of development rights program is funded by a 1.5-mill property tax approved by the voters in 2006, nine years after the program first was approved for a 10-year period. The 2006 renewal is good for 20 years.
Purchase of development rights board member Allan White confirmed Tuesday that to date, the program has conserved 32,000 acres of rural land in Routt County, and that is far from the total number of acres under conservation easements here.
The Fetchers acquired the 600-acre Hahn’s Peak Ranch in 1949, but the 120 acres that will go under easement this week were acquired through the Bureau of Land Management exchange for Emerald Mountain in 2007, according to Fetcher.
“We were very lucky to have funds (available) from the previous conservation tax credits,” he said. “It was the highest appraised piece in the Emerald Mountain exchange.”
Although the family had not worked with the Agricultural Land Trust on previous easements, he added, the Fetcher family decided to work on the project with the organization’s Stewardship Director Megan Knott, who is based in Routt County.
In other action
The county commissioners approved the request of Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins to promote a patrol sergeant to a new patrol lieutenant position to facilitate that employee taking on new administrative duties. The sheriff will cover the $7,500 additional salary and benefits out of his 2013 budget.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com