Colorado West Land Trust ended 2018 on a high note. During the last week of the year, the Land Trust completed conservation projects totaling 2,427 acres in Delta and Mesa counties. These properties represent some of the region's finest ranch land and wildlife habitat.
On Dec. 27, Jeremy and Candice Fouts conserved their 1,707-acre ranch in Delta County. "We [originally] bought this property to make a deliberate lifestyle change and to do something together as a family," Jeremy explains. "I learned a lot of life skills growing up on a farm -- how to treat others, how to respect the land and wildlife. It made me realize that living in a gated subdivision would be a harder place for me to pass on those values to my boys."
The Fouts Ranch seems an ideal location for Jeremy and Candice to pass on their work ethic and love of the outdoors with their two sons, ages 9 and 11. They have over 200 red angus cattle, and work closely with Ashley Jackson-Baillie from the Montrose Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office to make their land as productive as possible, both for their livestock and the surrounding wildlife.
"Anything you'd be looking for in a property, it has to offer. There are two creeks with phenomenal trout fishing, scrub oak from around 7,500 to 9,800 feet in elevation, 400 acres of aspens, and beautiful bottom land with over 450 acres of irrigated land that we can use for hay crops and to provide wintering ground for game." Further, their property adjoins BLM and national forest land, which provides forage, cover, breeding grounds, and migration corridors for a diversity of wildlife, including many big game species.
Another property conserved in late December -- 720 acres of the historic Twenty-Eight Hole Ranch on Glade Park, in Mesa County, owned by the Aubert-Hawks family -- builds on over 20 years of landscape-scale conservation by the Land Trust in this important region. To date, the organization has conserved over 43,000 acres on Glade Park in partnership with various private landowners.
The conserved portion of the ranch adjoins the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness Area and the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area and is near the Colorado National Monument. It is one of the last remaining intact ranches on the northern end of Glade Park.
The Twenty-Eight Hole Ranch was acquired by the Aubert family in the mid-1950's. Today, Chele and Dave Hawks steward the land as part of their ranching operation. For the Hawks family, conservation of the property not only benefits their cattle, but also serves as an important connection for wildlife in the area -- deer and elk migrate down from Pinyon Mesa during the winter and desert big horn sheep depend on the water from Mee Canyon, which runs out from the conserved ranch. The property also lies near Gunnison sage grouse habitat, and the properties' cliffs provide nesting habitat for local ravens, red-tailed hawks and golden eagles.
The Aubert-Hawks conservation work was made possible through funding from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the Gates Family Foundation.
"As development continues it's never ending march and whittles away at ranches and open space, it is a great source of satisfaction to know that whatever the future might bring, this property will exist as it does today," says Dave Hawks.
"We are thrilled to work with the Aubert-Hawks and Fouts families to preserve the wonderful ranching heritage that adds to our region's economy and quality of life," said Rob Bleiberg, CWLT executive director. "The wildlife habitat and open space that these lands provide will benefit western Colorado for generations to come."
Colorado West Land Trust is a collaboration of the Mesa Land Trust and the Black Canyon Regional Land Trust. CWLT, a private, charitable nonprofit organization, stewards over 123,000 acres across six western Colorado counties (Delta, Gunnison, Mesa, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel).
Its mission is to protect and enhance agricultural land, wildlife habitat and scenic lands in western Colorado to benefit the community at large, enrich lives, provide opportunities for outdoor recreation, and ensure our connection to land for generations to come. To learn more about CWLT's work, visit https://cowestlandtrust.org/.