Flying Diamond Ranch is seen from the north side of Colorado Highway 131. The Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved $330,000 for a 237-acre conservation easement on the ranch through the purchase of development rights program. Of the Flying Diamond Ranch's 3,095 acres, 1,928 now are protected permanently.

Routt County/courtesy

Flying Diamond Ranch is seen from the north side of Colorado Highway 131. The Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved $330,000 for a 237-acre conservation easement on the ranch through the purchase of development rights program. Of the Flying Diamond Ranch's 3,095 acres, 1,928 now are protected permanently.

Routt County approves $330K for Flying Diamond Ranch conservation easement

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— The Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved $330,000 to help purchase development rights for 237 acres of the Routt County valley floor.

Flying Diamond Ranch, which straddles Colorado Highway 131 between Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek, is home to many species of wildlife, critical big game habitat as well as a year-round cattle operation.

The ranch has gone through multiple preservation phases, and the latest represents a highly visible gateway area along the north side of Colo. 131 that’s highly subject to development pressure, according to purchase of development rights advisory board Chairwoman Claire Sollars.

Of the ranch's 3,095 acres, 1,928 now are protected permanently, according to a release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which was involved in the easement. Susanne Roller, land program manager for Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, said staff members Bob Springer and Chris Yarborough were instrumental to the project.

The $330,000 being funded by Routt County taxpayers through the purchase of development rights program represents 11.8 percent of the total value of the conservation easement.

The Adams family, which owns the ranch, contributed 65 percent of the value of the easement. The remainder was provided by Great Outdoors Colorado.

“The contribution by the owners in this project is significant,” advisory board member Ron Roundtree said. “It’s really what can make these great pieces of land go forward now.

“These more visible and gateway properties the values obviously go up, and they’re harder to find.”

John Adams thanked the commissioners and purchase of development rights board Tuesday.

“It’s really a win-win for our family, too,” he said.

The economics of ranching in Routt County are difficult, Adams said, and it’s rewarding to get some value out of the property this way so the ranch can survive.

“In order to provide this will be passed on for generations, we needed to provide some value,” he said.

One final piece of property on the ranch targeted for an easement remains: a strip of about 357 acres along the south side of Colo. 131. That piece might come back to the purchase of development rights advisory board in the next application cycle.

“I’m trying to gift this ground to my kids,” Adams said.

Being able to diminish some of the value of the land through retiring development rights will better allow the land to be put in a trust for future generations, he said.

The commissioners agreed that it’s an important piece of property in a highly visible and scenic corridor.

“We need to continue to thank our Routt County citizens for passing this thing,” Commissioner Doug Monger said about the purchase of development rights program. “It’s great foresight for our community to be on the front end of this thing.”

The program first was approved by voters in 1996 with a 1 mill property tax and was reauthorized in 2005 with a 1.5 mill tax for 20 years. Including this property, the program has preserved 32,258 acres with a conservation easement value of $66.5 million.

“I really like this project,” Commissioner Tim Corrigan said. “This one we really, truly are talking about some acreage that would be easily developed."

“I think future generations are going to be very appreciative,” Commissioner Steve Ivancie said about the program and preservation of scenic ranching land. “It’s just not views. It’s our way of life.”

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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