Conservancy Maintains Open Space

Over 6,500 acres protected in 2008

In its most fruitful year ever, Montezuma Land Conservancy protected 6,740 acres in 2008 by completing 10 conservation easements with local landowners. The easements protect the full spectrum of natural and agricultural resources, including low elevation desert and canyon country, dryland and irrigated farms, prime soils and ranches, wetland and riparian areas, high-mountain wildlife habitat, stunning scenery, and local agricultural heritage.

Five of these easements closed in the final weeks of December, conserving 720 acres of farmground in rural Yellow Jacket, 400 acres in lower Yellow Jacket Canyon near the Utah border, 156 acres in McElmo Canyon adjacent to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, and 214 acres of working ranchland and riparian habitat along the Mancos River. Five other properties were protected earlier in the year, including the conservancy’s largest easement ever, the Brumley Ranch next to Groundhog Reservoir.

Dave Nichols, Executive Director of the Conservancy, remarked: “With the use of conservation easements, these families have conserved their land for themselves and their heirs. At the same time, these thoughtful donations protect important agricultural land, watersheds and open space that benefit all of us who live in Montezuma County.

One property protected was the historic Reddert-Menefee Ranch along the Echo Basin Road in rural Mancos. Removing development and subdivision rights from 157 acres on the Mancos River, the Reddert Family increased the size of their existing conservation easement on the working cattle ranch to 433 acres. This recent easement was made possible with support from the Great Outdoors Colorado Lottery Fund, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm and Ranch Protection Program, and the Keep It Colorado Conservation Partnership.

On behalf of the Reddert Family, Ryan Brown describes his family’s strong ties to the land and their decision to keep the ranch undeveloped.

“The family has been attached to this land in a way that’s hard to describe, but which I’m sure a lot of people will understand. As kids, my brothers and I rode it regularly with our grandfather Fred Reddert, known to many as ‘Doc,’ and even once with our grandmother Lottie, who still rode sidesaddle. My mother Norma Brown rode it many years before with George Menefee, who was Fred’s stepfather, and she still walks it regularly with her thistle cutters. Generations of local ranchers and others have helped work the ranch, including members of the Lewis, Halls, Ignacio, Ismay, Semadini, Robbins and Cox families. Together with my aunt Naomi Reddert, my mother and father and brothers and I are happy to be able to help preserve this bit of Mancos Valley heritage, and we are thankful to MLC for helping us make it possible. We hope the place will give our own kids some of the perspective it’s given us, and that future generations will continue to enjoy the views up Echo Basin Road.”

The Reddert-Menefee Ranch contains deep prime farmland soils, senior water rights, two miles of riparian habitat along the Mancos River, and notable historic features including the cabin built by Dick Giles, an early Mancos prospector. Following Giles’ death, the cabin was inhabited by the Menefee Family, including Bill Menefee, the first settler born in the Mancos Valley in 1877.

“Montezuma Land Conservancy works to protect these intrinsic qualities that define our landscape and community here in southwestern Colorado,” said Nina Williams of the conservancy. “They are increasingly threatened by unplanned growth and development.”

Since 1998, the conservancy has partnered with local landowners to complete 53 conservation easements that protect just under 17,000 acres in Montezuma and Dolores counties. Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements that landowners use to protect important agricultural land, wildlife habitat, and scenic open space by limiting subdivision and residential development. Lands remain in private ownership and management, and public access is not granted. Financial benefits can include reduction in state, federal and estate taxes and continued agricultural property tax status. In certain cases, landowners may receive cash for protecting their land.For more information, call 970-565-1664.

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