Another Elk River Valley ranch up for conservation |

Another Elk River Valley ranch up for conservation

— The Routt County Board of Commissioners could decide Tuesday to use $225,000 of property tax revenues dedicated to conservation to protect all 971 acres of the Six Plus Ranch at the foot of Sleeping Giant in the lower Elk River Valley.

The rolling hills of the ranch are punctuated with pockets of aspen, pine and mountain shrubs and include two active breeding leks used by Columbian sharp-tailed grouse. There also are elk calving grounds on the ranch.

If accepted by the commissioners, the conservation easement would be held by the Yampa Valley Land Trust and funded in part by Routt County's Purchase of Development Rights program. The Land Trust is a nonprofit land conservation organization established in 1992 that has succeeded in facilitating easements that have linked up to ensure a significant portion of the productive hay meadows and livestock pastures in the Elk River Valley will not be developed.

Landowners who participate in the PDR program donate a portion of the value of their property to the transaction. Essentially, they are donating what the value of the land might have been had the easement not permanently protected it from development.

In this case, Judy Hutchins and the Hutchins family are proposing to donate an unusually large 88.4 percent of the total conservation easement value of $1.94 million.

According to documents on file at Routt County, the Land Trust and the owners of the ranch will consider Six Plus Ranch as three parcels.

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One parcel of between 160 and 240 acres will be reserved for a ranch headquarters and permit expansion of the agricultural operation. Another parcel of about 574 acres would continue to be used for the existing ranching operation. A parcel on the west side of the property comprising about 178 acres would be dedicated for land conservation and/or wildlife habitat protection.

The landowner also would reserve the right to restore or rehabilitate the historic homestead cabin and related buildings.

The public contribution to the easement comes from 1.5 mills of property tax approved by county voters in 2006 for a 20-year period. That vote reaffirmed the property taxpayers' original approval of PDR in 1997.

Landowners have donated on average 49.3 percent of the value of the easements on 48 completed projects. Other federal, state and local agencies have contributed 24.6 percent of the total PDR project funding.

As of January, the county had helped fund the purchase of conservation easements on 32,257.47 acres, at a cost of $17.6 million, including transaction costs.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

If you go

What: Routt County Commissioners consider Purchase of Development Rights from Six Plus Ranch.

When: 11:30 a.m. April 8

Where: Commissioners’ Hearing Room, Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave.

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