Montezuma Land Conservancy (MLC) recently partnered with three landowners to conserve 1,000+ acres of ranch land in Weber Canyon. This project provides a keystone for strategic, landscape scale conservation in the Mancos Valley.
The project includes the full range of conservation values that MLC was founded to protect; the parcels have significant agricultural values including prime soils and almost 6 cubic feet per second of high priority irrigation water out of Weber Creek. The parcels currently produce irrigated hay and provide rangeland for grazing.
The conservation easement protects extensive natural habitat including over 1,000 acres of diverse and biologically significant habitat that link two Bureau of Land Management Wilderness Study Areas, which are in turn contiguous with Mesa Verde National Park and the Ute Mountain Ute’s Tribal Park. The parcels contain nearly 3.25 miles of riparian habitat along Weber and East Canyon creeks. The bottom lands of these two significant canyons contain willow and cottonwood riparian areas, piñon juniper woodlands, mixed mountain shrub, pockets of ponderosa pine, native grasses and shale outcrops creating a multitude of habitats capable of supporting a high level of biodiversity. Conserving these habitats supports regional populations of wildlife which local residents and visitors alike enjoy watching and hunting.
The land remains private property and physical access is by permission only. However, the conservation easement protects magnificent scenic vistas visible to the public from a county road and from nearby public land.
When asked about their reasons for making this commitment to conservation, one of the landowners said, “These ranches in Weber Canyon are contiguous to two BLM Wilderness Study Areas, and other public lands. Their preservation is essential to the natural integrity of the micro-ecosystem. Agricultural production began with the Anasazi and was re-established by the homesteaders in the 1800’s. As owners, we intend to honor the land and maintain the ranching tradition of the property in perpetuity by granting this conservation easement.”
This project was made possible by support from the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Habitat Protection Partnership, Central Utah Project Completion Act funds and a private foundation.
This project also builds upon the nine miles of riparian habitat and over 2,400 acres in the Mancos Valley already protected by conservation easements held by MLC.
MLC Executive Director Juniper Katz sums up the project, “The size and remote location of this project make this conservation easement very significant – the ability for ranching to continue in Weber Canyon while protecting key habitat for future generations is a legacy we are proud to be a part of — and we’re not done yet – MLC is in discussions with two other landowners to knit together additional private lands in this important agricultural and natural corridor of southwestern Colorado.”