Montezuma Land Conservancy (MLC) continued its momentum in preserving the scenic viewshed along the San Juan Skyway by completing a 355-acre conservation easement on a ranch owned by the Cox family. Located just south of Mancos, the Cox Property is MLC’s 26th conservation easement in the Mancos Valley. The project was made possible by the landowners’ generosity, foresight and by grants from CDOT and the local Montelores Habitat Partnership Program. Bridge loans were provided by Colorado Open Lands (COL) and The Conservation Fund (TCF).
The Cox property is owned by three generations of the Cox family and is an integral part of the Coxes’ ranch. In addition to growing hay, the Coxes graze cattle on the property. “We couldn’t sell the ranch because it’s been in the family for generations and has become a part of the family. We wanted to keep the land in the family” says Terry Cox, continuing “The conservation easement allows us to keep the land in the family while realizing some financial gain from the land which we hope will allow us to buy another piece of dirt to expand our operations.”
On top of its agricultural values, the property provides critical habitat linking the Menefee Mountain and Weber Mountain Wilderness Study Areas. The Cox Property is also adjacent to over 1,000 acres already under a conservation easement held by MLC and Weber Creek runs through the property providing a crucial water source for wildlife.
Conserving this property also protects Southwest Colorado’s rural lifestyle and agricultural heritage. “The reason we wanted to do it [the conservation easement] is to save the ranch for open space to ensure that our family and grandkids have a place to go where they can shoot guns, run around, and not see houses” says Terry Cox describing why the family chose to place their ranch in a conservation easement.
Jon Leibowitz, executive director of the Montezuma Land Conservancy, states: “The Cox conservation easement adds to the incredible work we have accomplished with landowners in and around the Mancos Valley. Over the years, it’s become evident that Mancos Valley residents care deeply about open space and the region’s agricultural heritage- the Coxes are a great example of this ethic. This conservation easement, like the majority of those held by MLC, strikes the important balance between conserving agricultural lands and wildlife habitat.”
Colorado Open Lands and The Conservation Fund partnered with MLC to provide critical bridge financing for the project. “We are pleased to contribute, through our Land Conservation Land Program, to this effort to save the Cox family ranch.” says Christine Quinlan, The Conservation Fund’s Western Field Representative. “Our Loan Program helps increase the pace of conservation across the country, and in this case it is our privilege to partner with Colorado Open Lands to help the Montezuma Land Conservancy reach its goal with the Coxes.”
COL Program Director Jordan Vana agreed. “The Cox project is a great example of collaboration in action. It’s incredibly rewarding to play a role in helping a family like the Coxes realize their conservation goals.”
Since 1998, the Conservancy has partnered with local landowners to complete 80 conservation easements protecting over 38,995 acres in Montezuma, Dolores, and San Miguel counties.