In early 2015, Montezuma Land Conservancy (MLC) continued its momentum in preserving the scenic viewshed along the San Juan Skyway by completing a 60-acre conservation easement donated by Pat and Anne-Marie Owens. Located at the southern edge of Cortez, the Owens Property is MLC’s 9th conservation easement in the Central Corridors Program Area. The project builds on approximately 1,010 acres including the publicly accessible Hawkins Preserve and multiple productive farms and ranches that are protected by MLC conservation easements in the immediate area. The project was made possible by a grant from CDOT and the landowners’ generosity and foresight.
The Owens conservation easement will assure that 60-acres of important irrigated hayfield remain available for agricultural use permanently. The property has excellent water rights and puts up 3 cuttings of hay most years. On top of its agricultural values, the property is habitat for a resident mule deer herd, black bear, mountain lion, geese, and a variety of other wildlife.
Conserving this property also protects one of the reasons so many people come to Southwest Colorado – our incredible views. “The natural beauty and farm/ranch environment is what brought us to Montezuma County. By placing our small farm in a conservation easement, we will insure this ‘little plot of open space’ will never be subdivided or developed. It will remain a productive hay farm and open space in perpetuity” says Anne-Marie Owens describing why she and Pat chose to place their farm in a conservation easement. Located adjacent to Road H and visible from the Skyway, the property’s hayfields and distinctive barns are highly visible to local residents and visitors alike.
Jon Leibowitz, executive director of the Montezuma Land Conservancy, states: “The conservation easement is really important from a community perspective because of its proximity to Cortez, the new high school, and it’s visibility from the highway. It sets an important precedent in an area where we’d like to work with more landowners going forward.”
Montezuma Land Conservancy is a private non-profit organization located in Cortez. Since 1998, the Conservancy has partnered with local landowners to complete 79 conservation easements protecting over 38,640 acres in Montezuma, Dolores, and San Miguel 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, on the tax rolls, and public access is not required. 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.