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It has been a busy six months for Central Colorado Conservancy’s (CCC) land protection work. The organization notes that it closed on work both to protect the Ruby Mountain Ranch and Centerville Ranch easements. The CCC is also celebrating great success in fundraising for land acquisition in Lake County.

“These projects represent the diversity of conservation work we do. They protect scenic vistas, wildlife habitat, agricultural production, and public recreation conservation values in two of our service counties. This work relies on many important partners from local volunteers to county governments and state-level funders. The Conservancy is also participating in the development of statewide private lands planning for added future impact.

New conservation easement on Ruby Mountain Ranch protects important riverfront

In December 2021, the CCC closed on the Ruby Mountain Ranch conservation easement; a beautiful property that includes Arkansas River frontage and part of Ruby Mountain in Chaffee County. This easement of a private recreation property will protect wildlife habitat and viewsheds from the Arkansas River, Ruby Mountain campground, and Browns Canyon National Monument.

“Chaffee County is a special place and we are pleased to be able to protect a small piece of it from future development. We are also proud to partner with the Central Colorado Conservancy,” said the unnamed Ruby Mountain Ranch landowner. “It’s a great organization doing important work.”

Some twenty acres in size, the ranch property is home to a number of bird species, including sandhill cranes and bald eagles, as well as bighorn sheep.

“We are so fortunate the landowners want to protect this special place that is integral to the beloved landscape along the river and the Browns Canyon recreation areas,” said Conservation Projects Manager, Kyle Clifton. “It’s folks and properties like these that allow us to protect what we all love about the region.”

Residents attending the Decker Fire Recovery Community Fair confer with members of the Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative while viewing a map on the possible flood impact areas after the Fall 2019 fire.

Conservancy raises additional $1.5 million for next phase of the Arkansas River Community (ARC) Preserve

The CCC has received $500,000 in new funding from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and $900,000 from the Natural Resource Damages Trustees. With the addition of $100,000 from private donors, the funding will allow the Conservancy to add eight additional parcels containing 161 acres of land and nearly one mile of Arkansas River frontage to the Arkansas River Community (ARC) Preserve. Note that the ARC Preserve will total more than 320 acres, and does includes the Shawn Andrick Memorial Preserve

In addition to purchasing the land, the CCC plans to develop a management plan in coordination with local partners Colorado Open Lands and Lake County.  The management plan is expected to take until 2023 to be finalized, and when it’s done, the partners are expected to allow public access to the property as well as sustainable habitat and wildlife protection.

“We are very excited to have the opportunity to protect this important habitat and public resource with the generous support of Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and our other partners. The Preserve will help ensure the health of the Arkansas River for the benefit of wildlife and our community,” said Kyle Clifton, Conservation Projects Manager at Central Colorado Conservancy.

In addition, the conserved area will act as an important connector to protect public lands; linking three Colorado Parks and Wildlife state wildlife areas, Bureau of Land Management lands and national forest. Given the surge in population growth in the area, there is enormous public benefit to protecting this land from development while it can still be done.

Long-running volunteer land monitoring program comes to a close

The volunteer oversight of CCC easements on local lands has continued unabated since 2005, to ensure the easements are being upheld. The CCC reports that over the past 17 years, local volunteers have spent some 1,900 hours monitoring nearly 50,000 acres of land in Central Colorado. But at this time the CCC is expected to begin to transition to remote monitoring, and away from boots-on-the-ground-monitoring.

The CCC is participating in the Statewide Private Lands Conservation Plan

The CCC land protection team reports that it is participating in developing the Statewide Private Lands Conservation Plan, organized by the partners of “Keep it Colorado”. Some 60 percent of land in Colorado is privately owned, and the plan aims to establish a unified vision for the future of private lands conservation in the state, encouraging protection over development sprawl.

Featured image: A view of the Sawatch Range looking southwest down the Arkansas River Valley shows the early-season storm still circling the peaks.