Conservancy expands acreage

Staff Report | Cortez Journal

A view of Wendy Benjamin's ranch on Road 39 near Mancos

A view of Wendy Benjamin's ranch on Road 39 near Mancos

Montezuma Land Conservancy closed the last two conservation easements of the year during the week of Christmas.

An additional 1,367 acres went into conservation ease ments this year, which brings Montezuma Land Conservancy’s total protected lands to 10,170 acres of historic ranches, family farms, wildlife habitat and scenery in Montezuma and Dolores counties, according to a statement from the conservancy. These lands are protected through partnerships between willing landowners and the conservancy.

Of particular conservation and wildlife interest is the pro tection of several adjacent prop erties along a 3-mile riparian corridor on the Mancos River, according to the conservancy. Riparian habitat is especially important. Although it constitutes only 3 percent of Colorado, up to 90 percent of our wildlife use it at some point in their life cycle.

Marilyn Colyer put the rest of The Colyer Ranch (also know as Hooten Holler) into conservation easement the day after Christmas. The Colyer Ranch is not only beautiful but is also part of an important wildlife migration corridor, according to the Montezuma Land Conservancy. Colyer is dedicated to preserving wildlife habitat and has kept wildlife records for the past 32 years, recording many unusual and significant sight ings of birds, mammals, bats and insects.

Wendy Benjamin closed her conservation easement two days later. The Benjamin Ranch provides not only natural habi tat for plants and animals but also has high agricultural value, according to the conservancy.
Other easements completed this year that protect riparian habitat are located in Trail Canyon and the West Fork of the Dolores River.

Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between landowners and land trusts that conserve farm and ranch land, scenic open space, and wildlife habitat by limiting development. Public access is not granted as part of a conservation easement, and landowners continue to own and manage their property. The lands remain in private ownership and landowners retain all other private property rights, including the right to sell, give, or transfer their property as they desire.

Financial benefits from donated conservation ease ments can include reduction in state, federal and estate taxes, and continued agricultural property tax status. In certain cases, landowners may receive cash for conserving their land.

“It is a great gift to work with local landowners who choose to give up valuable development rights to protect their lands for present and future generations,” Nina Williams, co-director of Montezuma Land Conservancy, said in the organization’s state ment. “These lands are rich with cultural and natural heritage, and provide people opportunities to fish, hunt, farm, ranch and recreate. They are what make this area a great place to live and raise our families. Montezuma Land Conservancy is truly honored to provide the community service of protecting open space.”

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