Montezuma Land Conservancy recently continued its landscape-scale conservation work in central Dolores County within the Groundhog Glade Program Area by completing a 640 acre conservation easement.
The Groundhog Glade Program Area is one of six areas defined in MLC’s Strategic Conservation Plan. The area is a relatively unfragmented landscape primarily comprised of large tracts of private land that are almost completely surrounded by public lands. San Juan National Forest surrounds the region on three sides and Lone Cone State Wildlife Area and McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area lie to the north. The Groundhog Glade Program Area consists of approximately 85,000 private acres, and MLC has partnered with landowners to protect 15,000 of those acres.
This conservation easement will assure that 640-acres of lush rolling meadows, endless groves of aspen, wetlands, and over one mile of perennial streams will forever remain open space and productive ranch land. The property lies squarely within the migration route of the Disappointment elk herd as mapped by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Additionally, the full gamut of Colorado Rocky Mountain species utilize the property including black bear, mountain lion, coyote, mule deer and countless other mammals. It’s also mapped by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as Canadian lynx habitat, a threatened species.
“Like almost all of our conservation easements, this easement strikes that wonderful balance between conserving scenic open space and wildlife habitat while also preserving a working ranch and a quality of life for the landowners,” says Montezuma Land Conservancy executive director, Jon Leibowitz, “It’s a fantastic example of the important work we achieve in partnership with local landowners,” he added.
The property is strategically located as it shares 2 miles of boundary with an existing conservation easement. It also acts as a buffer to Lone Cone State Wildlife Area.
Recent subdivisions in the area have created a potential hurdle to the movement of the Disappointment elk herd. Protecting this piece will go a long way towards preserving this important migration corridor. MLC hopes to continue working in the area, with a long term goal of conserving as much of the migration route as possible in partnership with local landowners.
“Protecting the migration corridor will mean more working ranches permanently protected and an iconic viewshed saved from development. It will also have economic benefits to the community. Anglers will continue visiting Groundhog Reservoir to experience the unique and unobscured views of Lone Cone and hunters will continue coming to Groundhog from all over the country to target healthy herds of elk and deer.”
Finally, this project also marks the first time that MLC and a landowner went through the new Preliminary Advisory Opinion (PAO) process with the State of Colorado. Obtaining a PAO involves the Division of Real Estate reviewing critical pieces of the transaction and issuing an opinion on the proposed easement and appraisal before closing. A favorable opinion affords a landowner the assurance that they will receive their tax credits before signing the conservation easement. The new process is optional for the landowner and is part of the new laws that were put into place earlier this year.